Thursday, February 28, 2013

Stupid Smarch Weather

February is a naturally short month, but it really did seem to fly by more quickly than usual this year.  The majority of this month was cold (by California standards), but as it's ending, it feels like early summer outside.

Homer: "Stupid Smarch weather!"


"The Ukrainian" and I have been pretty busy getting his old unit rented, filing taxes, and other boring things.  Additionally, we've been training for LA Marathon, which is just a few weeks away!  We did a 12.5, 17.5, and 20-miler so far, which puts me way ahead of my training patterns over the past year or so, sadly.  Other than that, I've been running some 3-5 milers a couple of times a week and workout videos.  In a totally uncharacteristic move, I actually attended an official LA Marathon training run and had a good time running with like-minded folks!

Near the end of the month, my sister got married!  She's the oldest of us sisters, so now everything feels more sequential now that the eldest three are married.  Her wedding and reception had a "Princess Bride" theme.  I've said this before, but the best part about having a bunch of sisters is the new brothers-in-law that I'm getting... Okay, so that's not the best part, but it's fun nonetheless.


My niece (the littlest girly munchkin in the pic) is a party animal!


Finally, might as well spill that I'm starting a new job on Monday.  February has been a month of transitioning off of the old job, which made it kind of unpleasant.  I'm tentatively going to be taking the train to the new office, and I'm also going to have to join a gym and start going regularly again since I won't be able to work out at home as often.  This will result in me being at home a lot less often, though I will do my best to keep up with the blog.

I'm hoping March will be a little more laid back, besides the new routine adjustments.  =)

Monday, February 25, 2013

Walnut "Cheese" Spread

I recently had the opportunity to participate in a California Walnuts "virtual dinner party" and found this wonderful Walnut "Cheese" recipe from chef Aida Mollencamp.



This is actually a wonderful recipe, because it leads to a tangy, cheese-like spread that is dairy-free!

Everything basically gets whirled together in the food processor, so it really couldn't be easier.  I had everything on hand, even the walnuts (although I was sent more walnuts to work with).



The toughest part of this recipe is planning ahead the 12 hours that it takes to soak the walnuts in water.  I ended up soaking mine for nearly 24 hours, simply because of my schedule.  I'm not sure if it really needed 12 full hours... maybe there is something that can be done to decrease the soak time??  I also found the smell of soaked walnuts wasn't exactly pleasant at first, though it doesn't affect the end product.



However, I did realize much later that the canola oil I used was rancid... don't do as I do.  Otherwise, it's quite good!  Had to make it again.

Once the soaking is done, the recipe comes together in a matter of minutes!  I find that the miso adds enough salty flavor, so only add salt after you've tasted it.

Here's the completed spread.  Although there are options to do so, I did not make it into any variations (e.g., cheese log), because I normally like to eat things out of a tub. =)


This really does taste good on crackers, raw veggies, or mini pita bread.

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FTC Disclaimer: I was sent a sample of California Walnuts to try but was not compensated to provide a positive review for those or any of their chefs' work.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

LA Chinatown Firecracker 30 mi Bike Ride

EVENT: Los Angeles Chinatown Firecracker Bike Ride (30 mi)
DATE: Saturday, February 23, 2013
LOCATION: Los Angeles, CA
RACE BEGAN: 09:05 am
FINISH TIME: approximately 02:30:00

Last year, I ran the Los Angeles Firecracker 5K AND 10K run.  My friends and I decided to "catch 'em all," so "The Ukrainian" decided to join us.  I was originally signed up for the 10K (I learned that doing both is not that fun, haha), but the race coincided with my sister's wedding.

No fear, I switched us both to the 30-mile bike tour taking place the day before.  The longest bike tour I had ever done was around 20 miles, but the thought of another 10 miles was a bit daunting.



I trained for this tour -- once -- in the gym on an upright bike, riding for 60 minutes (about 17.5 miles).

On race morning, we took the train to Chinatown.  I got nervous as I saw everyone in their expensive road bikes and gear -- felt like a fraud, ha ha.  The race started with the lighting of firecrackers and one of my worst fears -- riding in a mob of people.  It went fine, though.


The first few miles were a very tough climb.  People were walking their bikes up the hill -- yes, even the fancy bikes (mine is a hybrid bike, much cheaper and not nearly as light/fast).  I'm proud to say I did not have to walk my bike the entire time... yay for barre DVDs for strengthening my quads!

Around Mile 9.5, there was a rest stop with trail mix, peanut butter, gels, water, orange wedges, and sports drink.  I had a little peanut butter, trail mix, and sports drink and decided to continue on, since we were definitely taking longer than imagined -- partly due to hills and partly due to waiting at traffic lights.  Yes, we rode with traffic.  This was super scary, particularly in some parts.  Even more scary was going down very steep downhills with many, many potholes.

I kept imagining myself being clipped by another cyclist, despite my best intentions, or losing control and showing up to my sister's wedding all scarred.  I kept a somewhat conservative pace in the scarier parts, since this wasn't even a timed event.

The most interesting parts were Griffith Park and the bike path near the LA River, which was a path I never thought I'd take.  After what felt like an eternity (the second half went by WAY faster than the first), "The Ukrainian" and I crossed the finish line, high-fiving boy scouts.

I was trying to assess the effort that it took to ride 30 (hilly) miles versus running, and unfortunately, they don't compare. Although it was tiring, I feel more beat up after a 7+-mile run than this 2.5 hour schlep on my bike.  I don't mean to offend anyone, but I guess I have always been intimidated by cyclists.  I shouldn't have been -- I outlasted many of them.  This was a boost for my self-esteem and some sort of affirmation that I am fitter than I thought.  On that note, I think I will finally try spinning classes soon -- due to a gym and job change (yep! more later, perhaps), I will have access to spin classes, and maybe I won't find it as painful as I did the first and only time I took a spin class, back in college.

Anyway, enough rambling.  Here's the goodie bag... the highlight was the Biscoff spread!!!  Tastes like cookies!!  I know this product is sold in my area, but I never bought any because I couldn't justify in my head buying something that unhealthy.  Hah, I will eat it if it's free, though!  (Not pictured: a package of Corn Thins I ate before the ride because I was hungry!)



There was also adequate course support to tell us where to go, so thumbs-up!  I will be back next year, hopefully to run.  Here's my Snake medal to add to my dragon medal... atop the awesome drawstring bag they included!  Happy Lunar New Year!!  Gotta catch 'em all!!


Thursday, February 7, 2013

Review: Physique 57, Volume 1

I think it's about time that I review the Physique 57 Volume 1 set of DVDs that I got during the holidays!

The reason I was interested in this set in the first place is that I've read a lot of hype about it.  Physique 57 is a barre-type exercise program.  I've tried The Bar Method and some of its associated home videos before.  The in-person classes are fairly challenging, but I ended up reselling the DVDs because they just seemed too easy after a while.

After cycling through the three discs for about a month now,  I definitely don't think these are "easy."  It definitely works up a sweat, and I definitely get to the point of failure.  Although the barre-method is a non-impact way of getting in shape, I definitely don't like for it to be a snooze.  This seems to give me the best of both worlds -- focused toning with no impact and even a bit of cardio.

Here is my summary of each:

Classic Workout (~57 minutes), recommended 2-3x/week - In this video, you go through an arm segment, two thigh segments, a seat segment, an ab segment, and what I like to call a "pelvic" section (although it's more like lower back, it calls for a lot of pelvic thrusting...).  Nice stretching at the end.

Pros 
- Complete body workout; challenging; different than other barre moves
- Only requires a chair, mat, cushion (I use a pillow wrapped in a towel), included playground ball, 3 + 5 lb weights, and a chair
- Decent music
- Token male in the background, lol

Cons
- Tanya Becker is pretty cheezy and annoying in this DVD (e.g., "No more jiggle.  Nuh-uh.  Not for you!")!!!!
- I don't have 5 lb weights, so I use 3 lb for everything...
- Playground ball doesn't seem sturdy like the one in the video.  I don't put my full weight on it.
- A little fast/advanced for newbies, which gives me room for improvement.  If I hadn't done barre before, this would be an even slower process.

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30 Minute Express (~30 minutes), recommended once a week - This is like the 57-minute version, except shorter.  Includes a short arm segment, a short thigh segment, and a short ab segment.

Pros
- You feel like you get a pretty good workout in the allotted 30 minutes
- Only need a chair, ball, weights, and mat... no cushion (I fumble with it too much).

Cons
- Tanya is annoying again
- Not very different from the 57-minute version.  If I had the time, I'd rather do the full version and include the seat/lower back/other work.

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Arm & Ab Booster (~30 minutes), recommended once a week - This is hosted by Shelley, not Tanya.  Approximately half of the video is arms (mostly in plie) and the other half abs.

Pros
- Challenging, maybe too much so in the ab portion... I have to take brief breaks because she doesn't really give you any
- Only requires a mat, playground ball, and weights
- No Tanya

Cons
- I felt there isn't enough arm stretching... I'd say barely enough ab stretching, either, but I guess that's what 30 minutes gives you
- She keeps making you think you are getting close to finishing when you aren't, many times... excruciating!
- See comment above in the "Pros" section

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As for results, I have been in maintenance mode, so I don't have any dramatic weight-loss shots for you.  However, I'm fairly certain this has kept the muscle tone in my abs, arms, and legs.  Additionally, I think all the thigh work has helped a bit with my endurance in running.  I think I only do the videos once a twice a typical week, but I was suddenly able to go from needing to walk during my runs to getting through 17 miles without needing to walk.  There's something about getting your legs to shake in failure during these videos that gets you through fatigue during running.  I experienced the same effect doing Bar Method, but I think this one will keep me guessing for a while.

At some point, I'd like to try Volume 2, but I've read that it's harder, and I haven't mastered Volume 1 yet.  In short, Physique 57 is not really great for beginners to the at-home barre method who haven't attended any live classes.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

I Did Not Run Surf City

This year, I decided not to run the Surf City USA Half-Marathon again.  I did this race in 2008, 2009, 2010 to earn my "Longboard Legacy" status, and even last year, 2012 for the Beach Cities series.

Surf City has always been a nice race to run -- in fact, I've PRed on this course more than once.  However, it is kind of expensive for a half-marathon, and frankly, I get bored running the same course so many times.

So just like in 2011, I sat this one out while "The Ukrainian" ran.  He wanted to try the full marathon and finished at around 3:37 training just a few long runs with me.


On Saturday, the day before the race, he and I did marathon packet pick-up.  Since we had the morning shift, it was hard to tell how many people would never come to pick up their bibs, but I did hear a lot of people were too sick to run.

Sunday rolled around, and while "The Ukrainian" waited in the car before his race, I started my shift at 4:45 AM to help coordinate volunteers.  I was scrambling around until 11 AM, so I think I had a little mini-marathon of my own.  I'm still amazed to see races run so well, because it really takes a lot of manpower and a lot of organization to deploy that manpower.  And when you are sitting in the front of the expo in a volunteer shirt, everyone assumes you know everything about everything and asks you everything as such.  Fortunately, I've participated enough times to at least get most of them.

I was a little sad not to be running, but less than is typical.  The 5K that I had coming up next week has been "postponed," so my first race of the year s now a 30-mile bike tour in a couple of weeks.  I've done a 20-ish mile one before, but this upcoming one is hilly, and I'm coming into is fairly untrained.  Then, about three weeks later... LA Marathon 2013.  I've been getting some long runs in (12.5, 17.5) and will have to plug in my 20-miler two weeks before... great.

For now, I think I caught something on the Metro or the expo, so I don't think I'll be running until the latter part of the week.  That's enough to make me anxious, but oh well.  I guess it's for the better that I helped run Surf City instead of actually running it.