Saturday, January 26, 2013

Track Repeats, a Decade Later

While I've been doing a whole lot of running over the past six or so years, I haven't *really* been back to the track.  Once, I did 14 miles on one as part of a long run...  And other time, I walked around one for 15 or so miles, as part of Relay for Life

In fact, these were all on the same track -- my high school's. (As I've mentioned, my running started in high school when I joined Track and Field).

Eleven years ago!
I don't like purposefully driving anywhere just to run, unless it's a race.  This is probably why I don't really go to the gym often, unless I'm already en route to someplace else.  And that's what ended up happening while visiting my parents.  While I come by every week, it's usually later in the day or after I've already done some other workout.

With my Garmin finally back in action lately, I took to the track with a simple goal of doing six quarter-mile repeats, with a "rest lap" in between.  I'm almost embarrassed to post my times, because not only am I extremely rusty at running in general... but my personal best for this distance is actually 1:02, more than a decade removed.

1 - 1:48
2 - 1:45
3 - 1:46
4 - 1:39
5 - 1:35
6 - 1:38

This was HARD.  First off, it was kind of raining during the first three intervals, and the track was wet from the night before.  By the end of the first interval, I didn't want to do anymore, but I had to silence the wimp in me.  

These were definitely not my best effort.  I felt myself slowing down at some points, even though I am pretty sure I could have maintained my speed.  I think I am no longer used to "full-throttle" and need to strengthen that mind-body connection that will push me through those times when I otherwise would pull back at the first sign of fatigue.  And somehow, I actually improved as the laps went on, sort of.  After the last two, I had to catch my breath and not vomit by the end of them.  As soon as I finished, it suddenly started to pour.

I do want to do this more often, though I specifically came out because I have a 5k in a couple of weeks, and my current pace is slower than slow.  Although not impressive (in distance or speed) by some standards, this was a mind-strengthening experience that really did make me feel spent.  I went to the gym afterward for the first time in a long time and could barely handle lifting weights that used to be easy for me.  Gotta work on that, too, I suppose.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Incrediwear Arm/Calf Sleeve and Socks

We're having a January heat wave down here in Southern California.  If you have read my Race Reviews, you might already know that heat is my enemy, particularly when it comes to running in it.  But even getting into a hot car with a somewhat non-working air conditioning system is enough to disgust me.

Prior to the last few days, though, it was cold -- at least in relation to normal conditions in these parts.  This means running in sub-40-degree weather sometimes.  East-coasters and foreigners, yes, I will cry you a river.

Yes, I've kept up with running... blogging about it, not so much.  My average weekly mileage has jumped from 4 to a "whopping" 25-26.  Admittedly, this is "only" about 3-4 days of running per week, but it has so far worked for me in terms of not burning out or injuring myself.  *knocks on wood*

Anyway, on some of my "cold" weather runs lately, I've been able to try out a couple of products from the Incrediwear website.  First up is this arm/calf sleeve:

I thought it was definitely interesting to use a common sleeve for both your calf and arm.  I haven't really had a lot of fun wearing arm sleeves, particularly because I tend to fiddle with them a lot when I run.  However, there are times when the weather is half cold and half warm that I particularly want to wear them... especially because I'm paranoid about unnecessary sun exposure.  At any rate, I have generally used this Incrediwear sleeve on my calves because I like having something to guard my shins from when I accidentally kick myself while running (you know you've done it!) or when I worry about random dogs or plants near the ground maiming me.  These aren't really something I'd wear for compression or cramp prevention because they aren't supportive in the same way as other ones I've tried, but I would totally wear them for the sake of protecting my legs during shorter runs, recovery, pre-run, or just because they do give the illusion of warmth when I want to wear shorts.

I also tried their Incredisocks.  These are probably the only "manly-looking" running socks I've tried, but I actually like them a lot.  I'm not sure if they actually kept my feet warm during runs in the cold, but I did notice a lack of rubbing/blistering, along with sweat and odor control.  These socks are on the thin side, which I consider a good thing.

As I am running more, I am starting to remember how fun and useful it is for me to try and review different products, and admittedly, I'm still quite far behind in posting all of them.  Since I've been out of the "training a long way" game for a bit, I have stupidly caused myself painful chafing and bonking due to forgetting to bring enough fuel for the duration.  I'm sure I'll get back into the swing of things soon... sometimes, the right gear helps.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Adventures in Online Learning

A while back, I mentioned that I was worried about my intellectual deterioration.

Now, as I am trying to figure out where I stand professionally, I have been thinking more about what I could be doing differently.  Sometimes, I feel as though I've taken the wrong path and need to do some (slow) back-tracking.  Other times, I feel as though I've already sealed my fate.

"Oh, you're so young... you'll be fine," I am often told.  Really?  Can I suddenly learn how to handle finance work... do I even want to??

Until I sort things out, I've taken to (free!) online learning.  The most alluring option was, which provides online courses of varying length (4-15 weeks, from what I've seen) with instructors from good universities.  There are so many interesting courses on there, topics ranging from nutrition to machines... but given work, I had to stop myself from signing up for too many.

The "class" I'm in right now... well, you can see it in the screenshot above.  I definitely wasn't expecting to need to draw back on my undergrad forays into programming, but I guess it's healthy???  Yes, once upon a time, I took classes in C++/data structures, Perl, and web programming... and although I was often scrambling/panicking, my grades were good.  I'm not sure what learning more will do for me, but I figure it's better to know something than not.

The assignments and quizzes are quite tough and time-consuming, and I think my ability to learn in an academic fashion has already gotten a little rusty.  I'm just hoping to get the 70 points I need to "pass" the class and earn a certificate.  Even if not, I have learned a lot already -- and will remember to take "easier" courses next time!!

These courses are low-pressure ways to learn, but you have to be very self-motivated to watch lectures and then do the work.  It helps to pick something very interesting to you... and it also helps during times of transition or when nobody seems available to hang out.

At the very least, I feel pretty good knowing I'm using the Internet for positive things...

Monday, January 7, 2013

Northwoods Inn Purple Cabbage Salad
Sometime last year, I went to Clearman's Galley for the first time.  I have lived pretty close to one for ages and wondered when I'd get to eat in a restaurant shaped like a boat.  Next door to "the boat" is a Northwoods Inn, and from what I have gathered, they serve similar food.

The fare at "the boat" is not exactly health food -- wings, burgers, greasy cheese bread, and this cabbage salad that somehow manages to be unhealthy because it is OILY.  I was totally grossed out as I realized my takeout box of this stuff had leaked oil all into the plastic bag it was in (thank goodness!).

However, since it WAS a tasty dish, I decided to re-create this salad, and it has now made its way into my regular rotation.  I used an online recipe, with the main modification being that I use a whole head of cabbage instead of half.  The result is a less-oily salad that will last quite a while since it is essentially pickled.  Definitely allow it to sit at least overnight before eating.

As a note about preparation, I've tried using both a food processor and my own chopping for the cabbage, and honestly, the difference in effort isn't really much.  You still need to butcher the cabbage head in quarters to get it into the food processor, and then you have to wash the darn thing and put it away.  The chopping actually goes by fairly quickly, and I don't find that the food processor chops it better than I do (which isn't all that perfect!).

I usually eat this alongside grains or faux meat, though it is a lot like sauerkraut in terms of its versatility (hot dogs, anyone?!).  A modest portion is definitely enough.

P.S. I believe "red" and "purple" cabbage is the same thing..........

Thursday, January 3, 2013

The Year So Far

Although many people haven't returned to work/school or whatever constitutes their "normal" routines, I feel as though I am already back in the swing of things.  Perhaps this is because I had to work on New Year's Eve and immediately again on the 2nd.

Everyone's good intentions (i.e., resolutions) have been rubbing off on me, and although I did not really commit to anything specific, I do feel like I'm on my "best behavior."  And I think some of it even started before the end of 2012.

For one thing, I have been using my new Thermos for warm drinks instead of going out for something.  I live around a lot of drink establishments (side note: I don't count Starbucks in this category... I gave them up for good in October), so I did have that bad habit toward the end of last year.  I've never had a Thermos anything before, and they work really well!  Thanks goes out to my sister and the little birdie named Amazon for the tip!  I have some loose-leaf teas on the way so I can reap the benefits even more.  Sometimes, it just takes a spark to get me to improve on things.

Meanwhile, I have been cooking again.  I may start posting about what I've been making once I remember to snap photos again.  "The Ukrainian" thinks he is "healthiest" when I cook consistently, so I guess I better keep at it.  As for me, cooking keeps me from going out as much because I generally make what I'd want to eat -- plus, I get to apply everything I learn when I'm a couch potato watching the 58-3 Create channel at home (and Food Network when I'm at the work gym/other people's houses).  Of course, since I wasn't cooking a lot toward the end of the year, I ate a lot of stuff that eventually made me feel pretty run down all the time.  I didn't resolve to cook more because this is something I should be doing... and HAD been doing, anyway.

I exercised consistently during the holidays, so at least I don't have to catch up on that.  I DID back off on the running a little bit, since I was a wimp about running in the rain and without having my workplace treadmill as a backup for those days.  Christmas was one of the few unplanned rest days I took, so I walked Bruno for about a mile and a half or so.

I've been trying to run at least a couple of times a week.  Before the last two weeks of the year, I was running a touch under 20 mi/week, which is definitely an improvement from before.  As I am working back up to that level (amazing how easy it is to fall out of a running routine), I have been doing bits of Insanity, Jillian, etc.... and the Physique 57 (Vol 1) workouts that my sister recently got for me!  I'm a fan of barre-type workouts because they really do seem to tone without impact, and when I was consistent with these, I ran some of my best race times without quite as much training.  This DVD set is significantly more challenging than others I've tried, so this should keep me on my toes (haha!) for a while.  Review coming later.
Finally, I've been trying to sprinkle in some more "fun" things to keep myself busy.  Besides trying to read, I have been utilizing our Netflix and Pandora more rather than watching mindless TV, lighting candles/burning essential oils, and short-term semi-mindless stuff like putting this puzzle together with my little sister:

So the box was missing a piece... see lower left corner.  So sad!!

Overall, I'm trying to teach myself that just a few extra seconds or minutes of cleaning, planning, and organizing can make a really big difference in what I can accomplish in a day.  I am often needlessly rushing, missing details, and overestimating how long/how much effort things take.  This has been an issue for a while, no thanks to grad school and my tendency toward anxiety more often than not.  In my last post, I did mention committing in 2013 to vague things relating to my personal growth, and I think that this is a significant part of that.

I hope to be blogging more now that things are settling down, so you might notice more journal-type entries like this one, along with the normal reviews.  I certainly need to catch up with those reviews......