Monday, March 26, 2012

Banana Mango PB French Toast with Oroweat Health-Full Bread

A while back, I received a sample of a new line of Oroweat bread, called "Health-full."

I don't eat a lot of loaf bread anymore.  For ease and versatility, I usually stick to pitas and English muffins.  But there are certain things that only loaf-y breads can accomplish, French toast being one of those things.

This bread is slightly lower in calories than most bread of this type and size.  They contain 80 calories a slice and come in multi-grain and whole-wheat varieties.  The downer, though, is the traces of milk that they use.  I never understood why a lot of bread, and bread recipes, need to add powdered milk.  It makes a perfectly vegan-able thing not vegan.

Anyway, due to the milk content, "The Ukrainian" had most of the loaf, but I did make a lovely breakfast one morning by folding the final slice in half, adding peanut butter and mango butter (from Trader Joe's), and dipping it into a batter of a lightly-beaten egg, a pinch of salt, a splash of almond milk, and vanilla extract.  Cooked in some Earth Balance spread.

I also had a banana I needed to eat, so half of it was caramelized with a little more Earth Balance.

My finished French toast, topped with maple syrup.  It was pretty filling for one slice of bread, though I wish I hadn't waited until there was only one slice left in the package to make this.

"The Ukrainian" used the rest of my French toast batter and added more egg and barbecue sauce.  Yes, that means there was a slight vanilla flavoring in there.  Well, I've seen him eat worse.

FTC Disclaimer: I was sent a sample of this product as a part of a BzzAgent campaign.  I have not been otherwise compensated to provide any particular opinion about this product.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Socca Mini Quiches

I tried making socca, a "bread" made from chickpea flour, a while back.  It didn't turn out as I expected, so to use up some of the leftover flour, I tried THIS recipe instead.

As you can see, it made a pretty thick "crust" of sorts.  Next time, I will use a better pan and bake it a bit longer, but this was definitely edible and actually pretty tasty for something that's essentially ground-up garbanzo beans.

To dress it up, I used squares of the sheet to line the bottom of a SPRAYED muffin tin.  I probably should have actually cut them to fit, but then I'd just eat all the leftovers. =/

On top went four beaten egg whites along with the leftover 1/3 carton of egg whites I had, with a splash of regular (not vanilla) almond milk, some dill, salt, pepper, some frozen spinach, and the remainer of that container of crumbled feta in the back of the photo.

I realize some people like precise recipes... I definitely think this one is easy enough to improvise.  These puppies baked for about 25 minutes, or until the egg is cooked through and a bit golden at the top.

These little guys made portable breakfasts with salsa dumped on the top.  Not bad, actually!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Lessons Learned from Walking

I made a list of things that I learned from Sunday's LA Marathon for my future use... before I forget.  Since some random person/people out there might find a useful nugget in there, I decided to publish this publicly, as well.

First off, I know that my overall performance wasn't anywhere near perfect.  And even if it was, there is probably some combination that could get me to that sub-4 marathon that probably doesn't include any of these tidbits below.  Yes, I still fought cramps, and it was still hard... but the overall experience was just SO much better than usual.

If I am going to use the same strategy for any future races, I need to iron out what I can to maximize it, and given that this was my first time trying such methods, I have a lot to tweak.

The strategy I used was some variant of the Galloway method, which was a suggestion from a physical therapist.  She told me that a run/walk method would "save" my legs for the latter parts of the race when I am normally crippled by calf cramps.  I somewhat arbitrarily chose to run in 8-minute intervals and walk 1-minute intervals, as I didn't want to be stopping/starting too often, and this combination seemed ideal.


I always want to look this happy
after every marathon from now on. ;)
- In the days before, I didn't really eat THAT much more than usual. I cleaned up my eating in the few days before, as I had not been eating too well (e.g., too many sweets) in the weeks before.  And I maybe only had one-and-a-half servings of coconut water.  I also forgot to load up on pickle juice throughout the week (although I did snack on pickles!)

- My dinner of semi-homemade pizza with pita chips actually fueled me, but next time, I should steer clear from whole wheat crust.  I'm one of those people who actually likes the taste over white crust, but this isn't the first time I've experienced race-day GI issues from it.  Also, avoid topping said pizza with toppings that usually cause stomach pain (e.g., bell peppers).  Also, from other races, I've learned that eating a lot of veggies/salad is too much roughage, and desserts at dinner is also a no-no.

- Bring stuff to stay warm before the race, especially if the wait is long.  Too much energy wasted by shivering, and also, more porta-potty visits are needed due to shrinking bladder.  I usually do this by bringing mylar blankets from past races, but I thought they were giving them out, which I did not see.

The Method:

- I worked really hard to stick to my strategy guns and not veer off if I could.  So that meant that I took the 1-minute walk break during the first mile, while everyone else whizzed around me.  I kept to the sides as much as I could.

- My Garmin was set to only count down the 8 and 1-minute intervals, so I didn't have the usual view of my pace/splits, elapsed time, or distance.  I actually found this really useful, because I wasn't thinking way ahead like I usually do (e.g., "I have XX miles to go" or "I've already used up X hours") and pretty much just looked toward the end of each interval.  This really helped me keep relaxed and calm and actually able to enjoy the views.  In other words, ignorance is bliss.

- I was able to start/stop running pretty easily and smoothly, which was good, because that could easily jar one's legs. I think my practice run helped, and in general, my running is pretty lax these days, and I walk when I feel like it.

- May need to practice this more frequently, on runs longer than 8 miles, just so I'm not doing something that's still pretty new on race day.


- I used my breaks to walk at a normal pace and relax.  When I checked later, I generally walked between 350-450 FEET during that minute, so the goal isn't to cover a lot of distance but to reset the legs. 

- I also used some of the breaks for refueling.  It was better when I didn't need to refuel during the break, but in general, I did have the need, so some of the time was spent fiddling in my pockets or with cups/bottles.  Yes, I had a water bottle at some points on the course from the spectators, and that allowed me to worry less about the timing of the intervals and water stations.  Maybe I should consider carrying my sport bottle in the future.

- Other things I did during breaks was take deep breaths, stretch, take off my hat for a brief breather, and adjust my clothing.  Adjusting my clothing helped prevent chafing, and it also changed how my legs were compressed, and at those points, my repetition-strained legs craved change.

- My breaks did not really coincide with water stops.  Sometimes, I'd hit a water stop a minute or two before my prescribed break, so I'd grab the cup and run with it.  Yes, there was spillage, but there was generally enough liquid to consume what I had to and wash it down.  See above note about considering carrying my own bottle in the future.

- I took breaks for certain parts, even if they were during my "run" interval.  Big hills, a water station I felt I needed, and crampy legs caused me to take premature breaks or breaks that were longer than needed (2 minutes, or at most, 3).  I decided not to spend too much of my legs' "resources" on hills that I wouldn't really be running that fast up, anyway.  Since my Garmin was counting down, I tried not to "waste" my "run" intervals walking WHEN I COULD.

- However, I did not ever run through any of my walk breaks until the last dash at the end, except one, and that was because I somehow missed the signal.  I made up for it shortly afterward, though!  The point is, I took the "break" seriously, and I think this helped me in the end enough to allow me to abandon the last couple of walk breaks toward the finish.  In the future, I know that my intuition will tell me whether I can just run for it during the last 3 or so miles.


- Salt tablets: not a fuel, but I did take two in the starting corral and after each hour (approximate because I didn't know the elapsed time but I generally went by Mile 6/12/18/21

- Pre-race: banana and package of Honey Stinger chews (caffeinated).  This is my new go-to brand, as they are easily consumed (even without water, which I sometimes had to do), taste decent with not much bad aftertaste, and non-irritating to my stomach. 

- Race: 2 packages of caffeinated Honey Stinger chews and one package of non-caffeinated.  They were out of the package in combined in a plastic baggie (need smaller one next time!) for easy access.  I also had Clif Shot Bloks with me, but I never got into those.  The pure honey/sugar did help keep my energy level steady.

- Also consumed: On-course Ultima (electrolyte drink), water (including a bottle that someone gave me at one point), 1 citrus/caffeinated Clif Gel, 1/5 of a coconut water jug that I was given toward the end (lifesaver!), and orange slices maybe 4-5 times (also lifesaver!)

- I hit most of the water stations, though I started during mile 4 or so and ignored some in the last few miles.  LA Marathon seems to have soooo many support stations, which is a luxury other marathons don't have.  Need to consider based on course.

- This means I probably consumed 850-900 calories prior to and during the race, which is more than I normally do (which is about 4-5 gels and a pack of chews or banana beforehand, about ~400-600 calories)


Looking stupid but running toward the finish
using deep-breathing.
- I didn't take too much time to stretch when I was feeling tight/crampy.  Maybe just a few seconds, as the longer I stopped, the worse it tended to feel when I started up again.  So rather than worry about getting the "kink" completely out, remember that this never happens and try to move on as possible.

- Deep breathing helped immensely!  During that last run to the finish, I had to take deep breaths in and out, quickly, to keep my legs from cramping as I decided to stop taking the walk breaks.  I also did this throughout the race as needed.

- When I got nervous or felt myself tense up from the worry of cramping, I tried to relax and enjoy myself as much as I can.  When things get rough, I tend to get consumed with worry, and that doesn't exactly help my energy level or calf muscles.  I had to remind myself periodically of this.  For future reference, I know I tend to tense up more when it's warm (anxiety response), so I need to keep this in mind even more.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

LA Marathon XXVII

EVENT: Los Angeles Marathon
DATE: Sunday, March 18, 2012
LOCATION: Los Angeles, CA
FINISH TIME: 04:27:12

I'm probably going to be long-winded in this entry... =)

So this was my fifth LA Marathon, and for a couple of reasons, I figured it'd be my last.  For one thing, I had a marathon ultimatum when my last marathon went terribly.  Secondly, I was tired of the long pre-race, freezing wait that comes along with it.

The day before, it poured.  And had it not been for Leap Year/February 29, we would have been running in that.  So thanks, astrologists.  In spite of all the prep, we did not get a drop of rain, and even some sun, with temps in the low 50s and generally not too windy until the last few miles.  I wasn't sure if I had overdressed, but I think I picked the ideal things (tech hoodie, Nike tights, and compression socks) for the conditions -- even if I probably looked funny.

This was my dinner.  I must have been so hungry that the picture isn't the sharpest, but I didn't have a "real" lunch, so I was starving by this time.  "The Ukrainian" made this out of Trader Joe's pizza crust and vegan cheese.  This (times two) was chased down with some pita chips.

Per usual, we had a 3:00 AM wake-up call, so I froze my butt off waiting and ate a banana and then eventually a pack of Honey Stinger chews.  I got into my corral, and things kind of went quickly from there.  Before I knew it, I was running, albeit slowly due to the crowding.

Now, as I mentioned in THIS entry, the only training I got were the various races I've done within the past couple of months, and maybe 10-15 miles per week.  I have been doing workout videos and not much other cross-training.  So yeah, I was pretty terrified at how this race would go, as I darn well know that even when trained, these marathons are painful.

My Garmin was set to "Interval Mode," so up until the very end, I didn't exactly know how much time had elapsed as well as how far I've really gone.  I relied on the mile markers and course clocks and lived my life in increments of 8 minutes "on"/walking and 1 minute "off"/walking.  Because of this, I can't really give great splits, since the "Lap" function went by time instead of by mile (Garmin owners might understand).  

So instead, I made this graph showing the paces of my "on"/running periods, at least the periods I was SUPPOSED to run.  I didn't adhere perfectly due to some water stops, hills, etc.  Also, as I expected, my right calf threatened to cramp through about half of this race.  =(  I did some crazy things to try to stop it, like Warrior II poses, pulling my tights slightly downward to change the compression on my calves, and adjusting my gait.  Oranges and coconut water saved me from the utter pain of cramping.

After about Mile 15, I wasn't able to hold onto my 8/1 strategy at all, and went "off" every four, three, or even one minute.  Whatever I could do.

As you can see, the higher the line, the slower my pace.  And you could see it climbing in the mid-end of the race.  Miles 16-21 were the dark moments -- lots of walking involved, just hoping to finish sub-5 by then so I could get into a seeded corral next time.  However, I was always surprised each time I saw a course clock at certain mile markers because I seemed to still be hanging on pretty well.

And then there's that end portion.  So what happened was the gradual downhill after about Mile 22 or so.  I was able to be "on"/running for longer than I had (maybe 3 minutes, ha ha... my muscles were twitching badly).  Then, around Mile 23, the 4:30 CLIF pacer came up from behind me.  By then, I had known that I had a shot at sub-4:30, but having her RIGHT there confirmed it.  So, I ran with her.  I breathed very deeply in order to keep my muscles in the game.  I had to stop to walk briefly once, as my calves were starting to seize, but I tried to regain composure and catch up with her.  And that I did.

Around Mile 25, she stopped the told those running behind her that it's up to us to "fight for it now."  I'm pretty sure she finished in 4:30 but was trying to get us to go ahead of her, if possible.  So I did.  And even though I thought several times that I was going to pull a muscle in that last 1.4 miles, I kept running and pushing.  No walking, maybe a slight slowdown when the wind blew and disagreed with my calves, but this is the first time I've been able to RUN the last few miles of a marathon.  

All that "not-training" reserved the mental strength I needed to keep running, and I felt totally awesome for keeping focus.  I thought about some of the stuff that my workout videos say for motivation, my favorite being, "I will break you, and then you'll be unbreakable" (probably not verbatim, but it's Jillian Michaels). 

I was SO happy to finish.  A stark contrast from last year, when I was practically in tears that last mile.

These are the only splits I have:
10k: 56:58
20k: 1:55:51
30k: 2:58:33
40k: 4:14:37
My overall pace was 10:11.

This was my course PR.  My previous LA Marathon PR hovers around 4:50.  And I kept saying that one day, I'd break 4:30 in the LA Marathon, though that seemed so far-fetched, as it's NOT an easy/flat course, and something always happens to keep me from doing what I can.  Even this time, those "things" did happen, but somehow, I just missed my PR by about 8 minutes.

I was happy until I found "The Ukrainian," who had a bad calf episode and finished just over 4 hours, which is practically unheard of for him.  He also fell victim to sparse training due to his busy schedule rather than just a lack of motivation like me.  I am still very proud of him, because he sustained his issues within the first mile of the race.  To fight through them that long is super commendable, plus at this point, I can only dream of running a 4-ish hour marathon (because apparently using a program specifically tailored for that goal didn't work for me!).

I can say that I feel like I've gotten away with murder for running my best marathon time since 2009, third best of my now-11, but I think that maybe I just found my golden ticket.  Would I have done better if I trained more?  The race played out very similarly, running 10-ish miles per week versus 30-40.  That spurt at the end, which I never get to have due to cramps, was amazing.  I even had energy AFTER the race.  

I'm not sure what this means for future training cycles.  And yes, there WILL be future marathons.  I thought this might be last one.  And after seeing the wonderful course support that is unique to LA Marathon, I'm not sure if I can leave this particular marathon so easily.  I'm not sure if I have it in me to shoot for PRs in the future, as how would I get there if I didn't train.... if training will even help at all?  Maybe an easier course?

I MUST thank all of you who assured me that a run/walk strategy (even if implemented imperfectly) would help me... and of course, the young woman who told me to try it in the first place during my physical therapy consultation last year.  I was "too proud" to try it, but I am SO glad I did.

Thank you, LA Marathon, for the women's-sizing long-sleeved shirt!!!!!

Some race photos:

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Review of Xtend Barre: Lean and Chiseled

This is a review of yet another video that I've been using in lieu of the gym or pounding my legs to death too often.

LA Marathon is coming up this weekend.  I talked about my strange strategy in this post, so I won't go into it again.  What I will say is that rain is in the forecast, again.  In last year's race, along with the other marathons I ran last year, rain loomed -- and sometimes it came to fruition and sometimes not.

Anyway, I have given myself a chance to do this workout quite a handful of times before writing a review.  The first time I popped in this "Xtend Barre: Lean and Chiseled" DVD, I thought it was extremely frenetic.  She (Andrea) goes through the warm-up at an uncomfortable (for me) pace.  This is probably more of my fault, since I am one of those people who never likes to stop and read instructions or watch fitness DVDs before doing them, like I should.  After a couple of times, I actually like the pace, and I was actually able to keep up with her pace just fine. 

The DVD runs about 55 minutes and consists of an intro (under 5 min), warm-up (~5 min), upper body segment (~11 min), barre segment (~23 min), core segment (~10 min), and cool-down (~5 min).  I never cared for the warm-up or cool-down, so I basically only do the upper, barre, and core parts. <-- don't do as I do

The upper body segment involves light hand-weights, much like Bar Method and Core Fusion.  I would say the difficulty is between the two.  She varies the small tricep pulses with some non-weighted moves that actually make me feel as though my arms are still working. 

The barre section is about 2/3 overall legs and 1/3 seat-specific.  You only need a chair for this, and once you get the hang of it, the movements are actually pretty graceful and feel effective.  There are options to take it up a notch by adding in plié jumps, but it's just as good without adding those modifications.  Just be prepared to be comfortable with terms like  "first position," "second position," "attitude," and "passé," though these are covered in the introduction.  If you're a beginner at this stuff, don't rush through it -- I can see how this could hurt your knees if you're not careful.

The core segment is a bit different from other barre workouts in that it feels more like pilates.  There are a lot of leg raises and such and less of the whole "lock your abs in one big crunch" thing.  I am not sure if this is effective as the latter, but it still does work the abs.

The instructor herself is pretty peppy and girlie (unlike Jillian Michaels), which I didn't appreciate at first.  But after a while, I learned to use her energy to keep me awake during these workouts, which I usually do first thing in the morning.  I must say that her ability to keep track of sides and reps is pretty amazing -- better than most instructors.  And finally, the DVD was some pretty decent, dance-y music that keeps me in it when I'd rather be lazy.

Overall, this is a low-impact workout that I will surely be using after the marathon to stretch myself out and stay active without hurting myself.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Vegan Fudge

On Valentine's Day, I saw THIS vegan fudge recipe posted and decided to give it a go.  I had all the ingredients laying around and was in a "no flour-y dessert" phase at the time, so it seemed perfect.

It started off as a night like any other, as "The Ukrainain" was working.  I Skyped with my undergraduate mentee, who expressed how bummed out she was to be alone on Valentine's Day.

Basically, my response was... the time will come. 

Of course, I used to hear that a lot, and it made me upset.  Sure, "the time will come" for many people, but weird and fugly me was below the worthiness level of most people.

But I did mean it.  She's a sweet girl.  So I don't see "crazy cat lady" in her future.

Found my (male) cat sleeping in this position, hehe.
 Okay, so maybe nobody escapes the "crazy cat lady" fate.

Anyway, onto the vegan fudge.  This was my Valentine's activity -- it gave me something to do and resulted in a snack that would last -- win-win!  This recipe basically involved crushing all the ingredients in the food processor and smooshing it into a pan and freezing it.

The result:

"The Ukrainian" eventually annihilated these.  I think the banana I used was too ripe, as I didn't like the strong banana flavor it had.  Also, it's not exactly "fudge"... it's more like a sticky energy bar consistency.

But tasty and satisfying, considering it made 36 pieces.

Part of my Valentine's gift (as I've mentioned, I wasn't expecting anything since this holiday was supposed to mean nothing to us):

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Good n Natural Bars

No, I didn't make up the name of these bars.  They are actually called "Good 'n Natural."

It made me think that some person couldn't think of a name of a bar and just said, "Well, they're good and natural............. so yeah."

Of course, this is coming from someone whose blog name is "A Case of the Runs."  Touché.

Anyway, the first time I spotted this was at a Ralph's (Kroger in other regions) in January.  They were on sale for $0.88.  In fact, I've never really seen them more expensive than $1.  Compared to other bars, that's pretty cheap.

Good 'n Natural bars come in chocolate, peanut butter, lemon, and cranberry almond (above).  Over the past few months, I've tried them all and would have to say I didn't care for the chocolate one much.  But to each his own.  However, the cranberry almond and peanut butter flavors are quite excellent.  The bar has a chewy texture and is actually quite dense.  They ring in at about 230 calories each.

Summary from their site:

- Made with Wholesome Ingredients, including Gluten Free Rolled Oats, Organic Brown Rice Syrup and Organic Diced Soynuts
- Dairy Free, Gluten Free, Vegan
- Good Source of Fiber
- 10 grams of Protein

So if you're into trying different bars like I am (and not the "walking into a bar" bars... hah!), I would recommend this is a cheap alternative to other ones in the market.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Blueberry Bars with Cranberry Naturals Juice

Happy Monday, everyone!  Yes, even this corporate slave wishes everyone a happy start to the work week... perhaps this will start it on a better foot than my usual grumpy post-weekend self.

Some folks representing Cranberry Naturals sent me a couple of bottles of juice to try.  These juices are sweetened with Stevia and are free of things like high-fructose corn syrup and artificial stuff.

I'm not a juice drinker.  Something about the aftertaste makes me avoid it, unless I am really, really thirsty.  However, "The Ukrainian" loves drinking berry-flavored juice and would drink more of it if it weren't for the sugar content.

Problem solved.

My non-juice drinking self decided to cook with the stuff instead.  I had a pint of fresh blueberries that were inching past their ideal freshness, so I popped them into a saucepan and added some of the cranberry apple flavor to make the filling for THESE vegan blueberry oat bars.

Making the crust...


The fresh-outta-the-oven look:

I cut these up and wrapped them for the freezer before I went too crazy.  I've been doing this so that I can bake a lot without having to get rid of leftovers quickly.  The best part is, I can munch on a healthy treat basically whenever I please.

The cranberry juice added a little tartness to the filling that would not have been there had I used straight apple juice like the recipe states, but I actually like the additional flavor.  I could not tell that there was anything different about this juice, so I'd definitely get this again for others to drink... and for me to use for baking.

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