Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Un(der)trained Melody

Last Friday, I took to the streets in 80-degree weather to meet my goal of finally doing a long run.  Of course, I've been doing a lot of 13.1's, but it had been quite a while since I actually ran any sort of real distance outside of racing.

And by "quite a while," I mean November (and by "long run," I mean anything above six miles... "long" to me these days).

Things have kind of fallen apart for me since then.  I had a very disappointing marathon, moved, got engaged, and then have kind of struggled to stay engaged in my day job.  By the time I'd get home, I'd be lucky to get 3-4 miles in a few times a week, and by the time the weekend rolled around, I had a race packet to pick up and race to run.

So my eight-mile run through my new neighborhood was definitely an accomplishment.

My true goal in this run wasn't just to get in mileage.  At this point, less than a month before the LA Marathon, I knew my window for mileage had closed.  If I've learned anything from my years of running these, it's that it's better for me to undertrain than to injure myself, which has pretty much happened each time I've given any serious dedication to training.

So far this year, I feel like I've gotten away with murder.  My top half-marathon times are listed below:

1) Surf City 2010 - 1:54:12
2) Surf City 2012 - 1:55:56 **
3) Carlsbad 2012 - 1:56:53 **
4) Camarillo 2010 - 1:56:54
5) Laguna Hills 2008 - 1:57:05
6) Pasadena Half 2012 - 1:57:13 **
23) Long Beach 2006 - 2:19:13

The asterisks (**) are races I've done in the first two months of this year.  From the looks of it, although my mileage per week has hovered at around 10-15, I've been eating my Wheaties.... or something.  Thinking back to my races, it's not that I was busting my guts any more than in the past... it's always painful and sometimes nauseating.

I credit Honey Stinger chews, Jillian Michaels, and Core Fusion/Bar Method for keeping me reasonably fit without going to the gym or running much.  Also, keeping my weight down (my "equlibrium" goal) has probably helped; even if I haven't been largely successful numbers-wise, my eating has definitely made an improvement, and perhaps that has kept me decently strong.

But on to the marathon.

The trite "respect the distance" phrase haunts me. From doing these half-marathons, I KNOW that the marathon is a feat. Heck, from doing ten marathons, I KNOW I start cursing myself when my hips start hurting at Mile 18.  Given that I don't really want this to be my last marathon, I need to be strategic about it.

My Garmin is now programmed to beep after eight minutes of running a one minute of resting/walking.  It was recommended during my physical therapy consultation that I try to "save" my legs by doing a run/walk method so that I don't cramp up like I always do.  So I used this strategy on the aforementioned eight-mile run.  What did I learn?

- It seems like I mostly get my rest period during parts of the run that I felt were easy (downhills, shade, etc.)... why????!

- At first, the eight minutes seemed like an eternity and the one minute went by too quickly, but as the run went on, I was saying, "Already?!" when the breaks came.   

- My overall pace for that run was 9:25/mi, which is very likely faster than what I would have done just running all the way through.

- Even though I didn't feel I was pushing hard, my pace when actually running was pretty close to my race pace.

Given my positive experience with this trial run, I am going to try to strictly stick with this strategy for the marathon.  While I know that using this for eight miles versus a marathon means there will be hitches, I'm undertrained, and after my past disappointments am totally willing to try something *new* this time.  Perhaps no injuries coming into the race + saving my legs during the race will be more helpful than 18 weeks that have been unfruitful in the past.

I will try to get in a couple more trial runs before the race.  I'm hoping my motivation to do so is still there, because I know that ultimately, the final factor will be my right calf.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Cashew "Cheeze" Enchiladas

Gosh, I feel a bit slow in my blogging lately. 

Work has been pretty busy... all-day meetings and traveling around has not been good for both the blog and my eating patterns.  Working and blogging are not compatible, especially if I still want to do things worth blogging about, like cooking.  By the time I get home, I just want to unplug.  Blogging what?

To make sure I don't need to cook every night, I make food in batches like this:

Twice-baked potatoes with goat cheese and chives.  Basically, I baked scrubbed and pierced potatoes at 425-deg for about 20 minutes, scooped out the middles into a bowl once they kind of cooled, mixed the mashed middles with a tsp of Earth Balance, goat cheese, and chives, and stuffed it back into the potatoes.  Another 15-20 minutes in the oven, and now I had a salad accompaniment for a few days.

Casseroles have become a staple for sure... one prep = many lunches and dinners.  I used frozen tortillas for this and was surprised they were even still viable from way back when.  I also used the frozen cashew "cheeze" I had left over from mac n' shews.

Even after this, I still have quite the stack of tortillas and vat of faux cheese leftover.  Wonderful???

Before adding the "cheeze," I mixed corn, black beans, and green chiles and put them in the tortillas.  The whole thing was topped off with the enchilada sauce on the right.  I loved this version of sauce because it had a kick (hence the red can)!

Here's the "quality control" piece that I had during dinner.  The cashew cheeze actually worked really well with the rest of the flavors.

Sometimes, blogging feels like another job, but most of the time, it's a job that I don't mind.  Same thing with cooking.  I don't eat out nearly as much as I used to, so although cooking often feels like a job, I love what I learn from it and recreate dishes that would probably be unhealthy and cost me $$$$.

I'm sure I could find more efficient ways to do both.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Adora (Chocolate!) Calcium Supplements

I'm pretty close to polishing off a bag of these chocolate disks from Adora.  How did I eat 30 pieces of chocolate???

Each 30-calorie, individually wrapped piece contains half of women's daily calcium requirements and 40% of Vitamin D needs.

I'm pretty sure I get enough Vitamin D from living in Southern California.  However, milk and I don't like each other, and my diet isn't perfect to get it in other ways.  These seem to work in a pinch.

For those of you with similar issues as mine (mild lactose intolerance), the dark chocolate variety is actually lactose-free.  I didn't taste any chalkiness from it containing calcium, but I'm not a chocolate snob... beyond the fact that I think dark chocolate rules over milk chocolate.

Overall, these gave me another excuse to eat chocolate.  As if that's needed...

FTC Disclaimer: I was sent samples of this product to review and was not compensated to provide a positive review.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Mac and Shews

As you might know, I've had an obsession with vegan mac 'n cheese.

I didn't document too many steps of making THIS "Mac 'N Shews" recipe, but here is some of the dish aftermath:

Food processor, strainer, straining cloth, big pots, small pots, and knives made this is a longer process than I had hoped.

But the result was pretty darn good.

I followed her recipe exactly, except that I replaced half of the pasta with a broccoli crown that I had.

This was my first time making cashew "cheeze," and although it still isn't quite the cheese that I know and love (not my stomach, though!), it does give food a creaminess that other vegan faux-cheese foods seem to lack.

This casserole-type dish made plenty of leftovers, and for some reason, a lot of leftover cashew cheese.  Stay tuned for how I ended up using this.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Rock n Roll Half-Marathon, Pasadena 2012

EVENT: Rock n Roll Pasadena Half-Marathon
DATE: Sunday, February 19, 2012
LOCATION: Pasadena, CA
RACE BEGAN: 07:30 am
FINISH TIME: 01:57:13

This race was a little bit of a last-minute decision, as my company was forming a fundraising team for the Cure Mito charity, which benefits research toward mitochondrial disease.   I have a small history of races in Pasadena, including my PR marathon.

After a week that I spent worrying because I had two presentations at work for a worldwide team, I was relieved for the weekend but felt dread because of my many races as of late.  While the presentations went well (whew!), I was still nervous for this last race in this cluster that I had scheduled.

On Saturday, "The Ukrainian" and I headed to the expo early.  We decided to take alternate transportation there to avoid parking, traffic, and hassle.

This expo was strangely quiet for a Rock n Roll event (see other RnR recaps), but perhaps we just went early.  Since I hadn't done an RnR event in a while, I guess I got sucked into registering for another.

Sorry about the weird picture rotation issue....

Since I was running with a team, I ended up having to bike back with a lot of swag on my back.  I am going to add here that my CEO did his first road race here and finished -- I'm a proud employee for sure!

Props to the staff for the cute official race shirt, which was NOT unisex!! <-- LA Marathon, take note

The night before, I literally bummed around at home and ate fish sticks for dinner.  Not a good strategy, in retrospect, but I enjoyed that this race was low-key enough for me to do that.  The next morning, I got to avoid all the traffic because of my charity team arrangement.  Sadly, my competitive self just wanted to lead the female times on our team, which roughly translated in my mind as sub-2.  Other than that, I didn't have it in me to pursue a PR today, slightly difficult course aside.

Time for the obligatory splits!

Mile 1 - 8:25 - Due to clouds, my Garmin was telling me I was running slowly, but I guess not.
Mile 2 - 8:33 - Hill
Mile 3 - 9:02 - Hillllllll... brushed with vomit-ville and had that "uterus falling out" feeling again.  Need to get it checked out???

Mile 4 - 8:37
Mile 5 - 8:38
Mile 6 - 8:40

Long, slow climbs made up the middle parts of this race.

Mile 7 - 8:53
Mile 8 - 8:54
Mile 9 - 9:27 - Short hill right after a water station, so I just walked and drank.  This was the beginning of my "phoning it in" cycle.

Mile 10 - 8:33

The course flattened out here, but we were running around the Rose Bowl, a place I have run so many times that I just was not motivated to keep going, so I walked during these next couple of miles, on and off.  While I felt guilty, my mind was just not in it, and I was already on track for my goal, anyway.  I even told myself, "Oh well, I'm phoning it in" even though another part of me was trying to bribe myself with the promise of no running for a while...

Mile 11 - 9:13
Mile 12 - 10:00
Mile 13 - 8:34
.23 mi - 7:28 (pace)

I did speed up toward the end, but that's because I knew the elevation would ease up.  It really wasn't an issue of physical energy or mechanical kinks rather than just my lack of mental focus.  And I was OK with this.

I walked through the finish chute quickly and got myself out of there ASAP.

This was an inaugural event, and I thought it went pretty well, although the course was more hilly than other Rock n Roll events tend to be.  I thought that everything went pretty smoothly, though I don't know how much it varies from other races in Pasadena.

Still, for the effort I put in, I'm pretty satisfied with my time and am looking forward to actually resting on the weekends instead of racing, at least for the next month or so.  I know I've tackled this string of races without the proper training, and even then, I have ended up with the usual minor knee issue now that I did not get from racing.

So is it better to be under-trained than injured for my marathon next month?  I think my work schedule (requiring some minor travel) has answered this question for me.  We'll see.

On a final note, love how RnR's medals are always so substantial!!!!!!!!!!!

Leading the pack of men, LOL.  Couldn't post the rest of the pictures to protect the innocent... hah!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Honey Stinger

A while back (I'm way behind), a rep for Honey Stinger sent me an assortment of products to try.

I have seen this brand at the running store and wondered what it was all about.  Basically, the quick energy from honey is supposed to keep you going strong.

I tried the Ginsting gel first (pictured in the center), on one of my long runs.  The consistency is a quite thin compared to other gels and, as the name implies, tastes much like eating honey straight up.  This might be a treat for some, but since I don't ever take honey with my biscuits, I had to remind myself of the benefits of the gel (B vitamins, electrolytes, etc.) as I ingested it.

The second item I tried was the waffle.  It was kind of like a thin, bendy waffle and was a bit crumbly.  It was not as sweet as the gel and is probably better suited toward cyclists than runners.  I tried eating this during a long run and found it hard to eat because of the dryness.  However, this probably means it's good pre-run fuel.  I had a small bite before running once, and it did not bother me during the run.

Finally, the chews.  I've mostly been eating Clif Shot Bloks up until this point, so the softer texture was a little bothersome at first.  However, after starting a few races with these in my stomach, I can definitely!!! endorse these, as I felt they gave me some steady energy (for maybe the first 40 minutes or so).  My flavor preference is this Pink Lemonade over the lime one.  I think I'll be using these from now on.

If you're looking for some more natural forms of race/long run fuel, these are a good solution.  They are a bit higher in calories than others, but I don't think that's too much of a concern if you legitimately need to use these for an endurance feat. ;)  Also, even though I don't like to eat honey by itself, the only one that had a really strong honey flavor was the gel.

FTC Disclaimer: I was sent samples of this product to review but was not compensated to provide any particular type of opinion.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

The Wedding is On

It's Valentine's Day in this neck of the woods, though this day doesn't really bear much significance for "The Ukrainian" and me (see this post, this one, and maybe even this one for times when I was more festive).

I'm probably going to cook him something, or perhaps he will cook with me, but in general, this isn't really an eating out day, a gift day, or really a day for anything beyond our typical means.  In fact, I'm pretty sure he'll be working all day until my bedtime, so perhaps I've got a date with the television. 
But, in the spirit of today, I thought I'd provide an update on our wedding conundrum... to not have one and not have to feel awkward or waste money... or to have one as an insurance against my future, possibly-regretful self.

Yep, after much jabbering, we went with the latter option.  So, folks, without going into details about why, the wedding is on!

Notes (sorry if the spacing is poor... I tried fixing it for quite a while):

  1. So far, we've secured a venue and thereby, a date.  And since then, I've backed off a little bit. A lot bit. 
  2. I've got the (DIY!) invitations picked out, ideas for (DIY) centerpieces, and have the favor idea all set.  Lots of DIY and saving here, folks!  Plus, the guest list will be pretty small.  No need to splurge a ton on something I'm not completely sure I want!   We're both relatively penny-pinching people, so money was never the issue... but still... (see note #7)
  3. We're not sure if we need anyone beyond my hobbyist friend and attendees, who will hopefully also take wedding day photos.  But, we decided to focus on the engagement phots that we are planning on taking in March.  Yes, that's early, but we want to get it out of the way and not take pictures in the blaring heat of summer (which, in California, seems like most of the year!).  We are splurging a bit on these, but I think these are what will *last* over time. 

    (So I really need to keep up with my equilibrium goal!  Yes, I know I haven't been updating on it, because I've made little progress. *sob*  More to come.)
  4. When I went to resize my engagement ring, we basically already picked out the wedding bands.  That was a surreal moment, for sure.  Just need to go buy them at this point.  I'm pleased to know that they are affordable.
  5. So far, I have not tried on a single dress.  I will be doing this in a few weeks for formal photos, but in the meantime, I'm holding off on this.  Mostly because I'm too lazy to go to a shop, and also because I fear that my small budget -- to rent or buy -- won't be enough to make this hopeless case look good.  Hah!  Also, I have such body self-esteem issues each time because my dress size is several sizes larger than any other clothing I wear from any store.  How?!!!
  6. The date of our wedding is a lucky date, according to the Chinese almanac... and also doesn't land on Sabbath territory.  It's also a long weekend for most people... except me, because my company is kind of crazy like that.  And this date is... November 11!
  7. No honeymoon has been confirmed yet, or even when it will happen.  However, I have never been out of the country and am pretty much convinced that I need this more than a wedding.
  8. On a less fun note, it seems as though my possible future children have already been renounced.  Thanks for showing me how conditional love is.
  9. I've been learning a lot about culture and religion lately (from the reading I resolved to do in 2012), and this has been pretty fun.  Any effort I make to address my ignorances is satisfying, indeed.  I'm pretty sure if other people did this as well, #8 wouldn't be an issue.
  10. Did you know that you can apply for your marriage license online?  This made me laugh.
Are you all interested in hearing more updates?  I'm actually doing a lot of races this year in comparison to other years (see sidebar), so don't worry, the running content will definitely continue.

I'll probably end up posting some of the engagement photos -- anything else?
Happy Valentine's Day -- or Singles Awareness Day as it was for me for many, many years -- one and all!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

LA Chinatown Firecracker 5K and 10K

EVENT: Los Angeles Chinatown Firecracker 5K and 10K
DATE: Sunday, February 12, 2012
LOCATION: Los Angeles, CA
RACE BEGAN: 08:05 am; 8:35 am
FINISH TIME: 23:44; 59:00

On the Wednesday after last week's half-marathon, I did a light jog and tweaked my right knee.  Ugh!  I wasn't totally surprised, as it hasn't quite been right since I was training for my last marathon.

Anyway, because of all the races as of late, I really had to psych myself up for this one.  Why I decided to race both the 5K AND 10K is beyond me... perhaps the Asian in me responded to "for just a few bucks more..."  I originally only registered for this event because my friend wanted to run it, and we all kind of jumped on the bandwagon.  This race was also one that I spectated back before I started running when my older sisters ran together.

The day before, I was timing my teenage sister's mile time, running behind her, right after drinking a spinach and flax smoothie.<-- don't try that  

Then, my friends and I took the Metro to Chinatown to pick up our race packets.  

My newly-bald bud, above.
And a few of these buns... memories from my childhood at Family Pastry.  No, I didn't care how much sugar, MSG, or other things were in these... they were heavenly!!  I basically have a ton of memories of Chinatown... smelly, crowded, and full of hagglers.  Oh, and I was born there, too... just a block from the start line of these races.

Finished my mini-carbo-loading with some sushi with "The Ukrainian."  Thinking back, that was a poor choice with all the raw fish, but oh well.


The next morning, "The Ukrainian" graciously drove all of us to the race site.  He was our cheerleader for the day, and he was wonderful (that's why I'm marrying him, duh!).  The 5K and 10K were supposed to start 30 minutes apart.  However, as I reached the starting line, I heard the announcer say that the 5K was delayed for five minutes but the 10K would start on time.  Aghhhh!!  That's a 25-minute gap (and my previous 5K time is over that).

The 5K was hilly... the first mile basically went uphill to Dodger Stadium, and I was trying to run fast to make it to the next race.  "WTF was I thinking when signing up for both?!" went through my head.  Before the first mile ended, I had this weird feeling below my stomach.  I can best describe it as my uterus falling out... it was so weird.  So I walked a bit and continued as soon as my Garmin hit the mile marker.  

The second half of the course was mostly flat/down, so I was able to sprint through the end.  However, I don't have splits here because the course wasn't well-defined, and I think it was a smidgen short.  So although this is kind of a PR for me (5th place in my age group 25-29!), I think I need to truly earn it at the next 5K I run.  However, given that I have yet to finish a 5K without walking some of it, I'd say there is much room for improvement!


I found out that as I was running the 5K, the announcer said that the 10K would also be delayed by 5 minutes as well, so I guess I busted my gut for nothing.  I had just enough time to find "The Ukrainian" and my friends, who were doing the 10K, and change my timing chip and bib.

I ran the whole race with my friend, advising him to go at his pace, and I'd follow.  The first couple of miles were SO packed, so this was definitely not a racing course.  My thighs were shot from the 5K, so I was worried that I'd feel really crappy the entire time, but things started to improve after these first couple.

The hills of Elysian park, which made up most of the first half, just piled on top of each other... kind of like La Jolla Half-Marathon.  Definitely was among the toughest courses I've run, but when we got to the top, the view of Downtown LA was almost mystical (wish I had my camera!).  I was sooo proud of my friend for running it all (save a couple of water stops), in spite of all those hills.  In fact, due to me being worn out from earlier, I even had to walk part of one and told him to go ahead so I could catch up later.

I reminded him of the pace every mile that my Garmin registered:

Mile 1 - 10:07 
Mile 2 - 10:27 - water stop
Mile 3 - 10:14 (he was freaking out as I called these times, as this was much behind his goal pace of 9:00-9:30)
Mile 4 - 8:52 - downnnnhill
Mile 5 - 9:05
Mile 6 - 8:39
.21 - 7:41 (pace)
Overall: 9:31 pace!

So that last mile or so, I pushed the pace a bit because I saw that in spite of the slow start, we were on pace for under an hour.  Knowing how big of a deal that is to new 10K runners, I started telling him, "Less than a mile," "Do you have anything left?"  "If you've got it, time to sprint."  I purposefully stayed a touch ahead so he'd keep going, but not so far ahead that he'd give up.  Although we were going at a fast pace, my legs felt light.  I was giving the thumbs-up to volunteers, spectators, and waving my arms around, mostly to encourage my friend that we were nearing the end of this... and I had energy for some reason at that point.

We finished together in pretty much exactly 59 minutes, according to my Garmin.  I praised his run and told him that we made it under the hour.  He said he appreciated my pacing and the psychological triumph of "sub 1."  The finish area was crowded beyond belief, with the public grabbing all of our freebies, but we did manage to see my other friend finish around 20 minutes later.  I'm am SO proud of both of my friends for greatly improving their last 10k times!

Overall, the race was light-hearted, definitely not for PRs, and somewhat plagued with crowd-control issues.  Lots of elderly Asians were coming in, wondering what was going on, and probably exclaiming stuff like in these "s*it Asian moms say"/"dads say" videos.

So over brunch (which admittedly included bottomless mimosas), the suggestion came up that we make this a yearly tradition so we can collect all 12 animals of the Chinese zodiac.  That's 12 years... yikes.

My knee strangely didn't hurt during either race, but as we were walking back to the car, I felt it loosening(?).  I also still have another half-marathon next weekend... the last one in my streak of races until the dreaded LA Marathon in March.

Near the 10K finish.

Near the 5K finish.

Friday, February 10, 2012

First Friday Link Love

This might be the first, or only time, that I have done a post like this.  And to be upfront, it'll probably be a rarity.  It's not that I don't care for other blogs... I can barely keep up!   However, I think that the blogs you read do say something about you, so here goes... maybe you'll find a new read.

In no particular order:

- Cindy's Cooking & Food Porn: Cindy is one of my friends in real life, so I'm probably biased here.  Her recipes are often lightened up a little but still very indulgent.  This post on The Treats Truck's triple-layer bars is just unfair to my dessert-loving eyes.

- A Journey Toward Pull-up in 5 Cheats or Less: Okay, so this is another one of my real friend's blogs (I guess I don't make friends well over the Internet?), but it's notable because she's doing the new P90X-2 and tracking her progress in close detail.  I LOVE how real she is, and it's great to see someone follow the program closely <-- something I can't discipline myself to do!

- Twenty-One Day Habit: This blog is done, but I had been reading for years and think it was one of my favorite blogs ever.  Her writing is humorous and engaging, and she handles two kids, teaching as a professor, and running in stride.  I will truly miss seeing updates here... perhaps the linkback might encourage some occasional updates??

- Nerds with Food: This is a collaborative blog, with some of my friends as team members.  I love the start-up effort and unique foods they have blogged about, including rabbit.  The most recent post mentions chicken kebobs made with a Vitamix (no pulverized chicken here!).

- Lotería Chicana: I find this blogger relatable because we both have ties to UCLA, PhDs, running, and are currently both engaged.  She also posts social commentary once in a while, which gives the blog more dimension for sure.  Plus, when I discovered lotería when I was younger, I loved the little cards so much that my attention is drawn to everything using that theme.

- Run to the Border: He hasn't blogged in a few weeks (again, hoping the backlink will help), but I loved how he documented his first 100-mile race last year.  It was amazing to read about all the planning that went behind it as he balanced that with being a good husband and student.  Also, he's vegan!

- Running Around Normal: This is one of the few multiple-times-a-day posters' blogs that I actually enjoy reading.  She brings up interesting topics within her posts and makes interesting meals without trying to tell me that I should change something about myself.

- I'd Rather Be Eating: Finally, here's my bit of nepotism here.  Actually, my youngest sister has a blog but doesn't update often, or else I'd link it here, too.  But anyway, this is my oldest sister's blog, and since she runs a lot of races (like Big Sur and other popular races that I have yet to try) , you'll see many more race reports (and actual photos!) than here.  If you think I'm too slow to take seriously, she is in a faster bracket... and is also a spin instructor.

Note that I didn't list any "big" bloggers -- not because I don't read any but because I figure people already know about them.  Plus, I often feel that when it comes to writing quality and unique content, smaller blogs are the way to go!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Tasty Bite Indian Boxed Meals

I've definitely been cooking a lot lately.  Some meals are more elaborate than others, and this post focuses on the "less elaborate" category.

"The Ukrainian" sometimes cooks, too.  This noodle bowl below came together in 10 minutes, thanks to a tub of yellow miso that I used to make vegan mac n cheese a long while back.  A can of corn, tofu, and some yamasa (fish cake slices) completed this lunch.

I like making most things from scratch, but in a pinch, these Tasty Bite meals work really well.  I've eaten a few of these Indian-themed boxes by now (great for emergency lunches at work).  The food comes in a pouch, which you dump into a bowl and zap.  Many of the meals are vegan, too, and fairly low in calories.

(You have to get over the sight of strange oil in the pouches, but once you mix it, it seemingly disappears.)

I had some leftover roasted cauliflower and gave it a second life by adding the contents of this Bombay Potatoes package.  Since I don't have a microwave, heating them all up together worked well.  Best of all, it tasted better than the 10-minute effort that I gave this.

{ Reheating some leftover roasted brussels sprouts... which I need to cut in half next time but didn't because they had been frozen.  They were bitter and blah on the inside. =( }

I can't eat Indian food without rice or bread to soak everything up, so my rice cooker went to work.  I'm not a big fan of eating white rice because I frankly have grown tired of eating so much of it over the years, but I didn't have any other kind.  Plus, it soaks up sauce amazingly.

The meal actually came together beautifully.  I added some crumbled non-vegan (I thought I should say due to my 'vegan' tag) feta... one of the few cheeses that usually don't make me sick... to try to improve the brussels sprouts.

And there, my friends, is fast food.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Review: Exhale Core Fusion - Body Sculpt

I saw this Core Fusion Body Sculpt DVD while reading more about The Bar Method DVDs.  As I've said way too many times here, I've been depending on these DVDs for a good part of my workouts nowadays because I've essentially quit my gym.

The two methods are kind of similar, focusing on small movements to tone the body.  I also feel this method has helped my overall fitness, including my running fitness.

So while that picture of a butt on the cover isn't exactly what I want to see, I do want to share that it (the DVD!) has worked its way into my regular rotation.

The disc consists of five 10-minute workouts -- upper body, thighs, seat, abs, and stretch.  You can do one, or play all, of these to make up your workout.  Each workout is narrated either by Liz or Fred, so get used to the changes if you're doing the whole thing.

Here's my review of each of the segments:

Equipment needed: sturdy chair or countertop, a strap/towel, two 2-4 lb. weights, small open wall space, yoga mat or soft surface

Upper body - The first time I did this, I couldn't make it through without putting the weights down!  And I only have 3-pounders!!  It is still hard now, and I sometimes still need to take a breather... it's kind of killer, at least compared to other DVDs in this genre.  Definitely expect a sore factor with this one.

Thighs - Again, tougher than others... my legs always shake doing these, which is definitely a good thing!  My thighs are pretty fit from running and general strength work I do on them, so it wasn't exactly HARD but not easy, either.

Seat - Same impression as with the thigh work.  Need to watch your back here... follow the form carefully!

Abs - This is the second toughest section of the DVD.  You really need to pay attention to form here, although that's true for all the sections.  And if you're a beginner, this won't be very do-able at all!  You'll need a wall for this one.

Stretch - Of course, this is the easiest section, but it's important to stretch the muscles for the full effect of these type of workouts.

As for results, I apologize for not taking photos of my behind -- or maybe I'm NOT sorry -- but I am pretty sure that I'd get some pretty awesome results if I did this more than one a week.  I can say that, in combination with some short runs and my other DVDs, I saw rapid and definite changes, especially in my abs and lower body.  By "rapid," I mean that approximately 10 workouts should be enough to show a noticeable difference, though it will likely be less than that.

Bonus: these DVDs are pretty cheap!

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Surf City USA Half-Marathon 2012

EVENT: Surf City USA Half-Marathon
DATE: Sunday, February 5, 2012
LOCATION: Huntington Beach, CA
RACE BEGAN: 7:45 am (wave start)
FINISH TIME: 01:55:56
(First race of the Beach Cities Challenge)

This was my fourth Surf City Half-Marathon event (see 2008, 2009, 2010).  Last year, I ducked out and volunteered for two days instead.  Thinking back, I'm not sure why I skipped out, since this race is always so well organized and one of the flattest ones out there.

But keeping with the volunteering tradition, "The Ukrainian" and I spent nearly six hours at the humid expo tent, distributing bibs to people who apparently run about the same pace as me (bibs 7000-7999).

I think I've said this before, but it's unbelievable how many people never show up to pick up their bibs... that's like $100 per sheet of paper, yo!

Of course, this was after we picked up our own bibs and waited in lines like this to sample Clif bars.

We ducked out sometime after the expo closed to grab dinner and head home... the entire 60-ish miles or so.  Knowing the crazy traffic that's always associated with the race, we made sure to tuck in early.

The morning consisted of using the porta-pottie multiple times (gah, stomach) and people-watching.  This is one of the largest races we participate in regularly, and with many of the runners doing their first half/full, it was interesting to see everyone come out with all their gear.

Given that I've gone over the race details in my other recaps, here we move on to my splits and narrative of the race:

Mile 1 - 8:39
Mile 2 - 8:48
Mile 3 - 8:48

I wanted to follow the 1:50 pacer, but he/she seemed the immediately disappear into the crowd as our wave left the start line.  I was like, Okay, I should know how to pace myself, and 1:50 is out of my range, anyway.

Mile 4 - 8:53

The only significant climb of the race was here.  Really, after Carlsbad two weeks ago, I should have coasted through this much-flatter race.  I was feeling comfortable at this point and decided I'd hold back a little so I could attempt a negative split in the second half.  Looking back, what was I thinking?  I've never successfully been able to achieve a negative split, no matter how much I hold back in the first half.  *sigh*

Mile 5 - 8:36
Mile 6 - 8:33
Mile 7 - 8:50
Mile 8 - 8:49 - turnaround point

Mile 9 - 8:44
Mile 10 - 8:51

Right at Mile 10, my sister passed me.  I tried to run along with her since I knew she'd be running my desired time, but when I checked my pace, it was 8:00 min/mi, which was out of my normal range.  I scaled back quickly.

Mile 11 - 9:09
Mile 12 - 9:03
Mile 13 - 9:01

So much for negative splitting.  Although I felt that I was putting in effort, I was apparently moving slowly.  It was getting out of my range of comfortable temperatures -- the sun had been up the entire race, but it was in my face now.  Anyone who knows me knows that heat of any kind makes me perform poorly at an exponential rate.  Had I not bombed these last few miles, I would have been within striking range of my desired time.

I was out of gas, and I remember thinking, This is where training would have helped.  Uhhh, duh.

.15 - 8:05

That last bit was torture, as I knew I'd missed my PR (1:54) but wanted to at least not hit my Carlsbad time (1:56).  With a final burst that sent my stomach into "I-have-a-case-of-the-runs mode," I barely streaked by.

I believe this was my second best half-marathon time overall.  Although I wasn't thrilled about missing a PR, you all probably know the possible reason why.  Maybe had we had cooler conditions, I would have had a chance.  Maybe if I had done some training (although I was running a little more than usual prior to this race, I'm still way behind where I'm "supposed" to be in that realm).  Maybe if my stomach cooperated.  Still, all of these "what-ifs/maybes" would apply to anyone, regardless of training or ailments.  I conclude that I'm pretty satisfied with my performance today.

In the next two weeks, I'm doing a 5k, 10k, and half-marathon, essentially on or around my home turf.  While my home turf is not as flat as the beach, I hope to perform similarly in them.

Can you spot the medal in here??

Best shirt ever (looks like a wet suit)... and I LOVE that last line of the shoe chip tag instructions!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

That "Life" Goal

I realized that the link to my "bucket list" has kind of disappeared on this blog, and to be quite honest, I haven't visited it in a while.

This year, I should be able to cross off:

- Leave the country (maybe)
- Have a pro photography session (pretty much definite)
- Do a Relay for Life (pretty much definite)
- Go to Hawaii (#1 choice!) or some sort of exotic destination (e.g., Cancun) (maybe)
- Get published (this is vague... to be defined at some point) (maybe)
- Get married (pretty much definite)
- Start a career (this is vague, but what I mean is that I would like to get a full-time/permanent job) (I hope!)

Did you see that third item?  Yes, I'm doing a Relay for Life (assuming all goes well)!!!!!  The event will take place on a high school track on Saturday, June 9 and will go on for over 24 hours, during which at least one member of the team is required to be moving along on the track.  I've never done any of these events requiring this kind of (non-sleeping) endurance, so I imagine this will be really fun and challenging!

Below is my fundraising link, if you're interested.  I'm sure most of us have been touched by cancer in one form or another.  This team in particular was formed in honor of one of my best bud's father, who passed away in 2007.  It was really sad to see him deteriorate, and he very much reminded me of my own dad. 

I will definitely blog about the experience -- whether I end up doing a long run on that track in front of everybody and how I hold up sitting around a high school track. =)