Saturday, September 28, 2013

YMCA Stair Climb 2013

EVENT: YMCA Stair Climb
DATE: Friday, September 27, 2013
LOCATION: Los Angeles, CA
RACE BEGAN: 1:30 pm
FINISH TIME: 17:46

To me, stairs are pretty much as bad as hills.  However, unlike hills, stairs can actually be quite dangerous, so I tend to avoid them.  Unfortunately, as a public transit user and a high-rise worker, I come across many stairs, and when I do, my legs often feel like lead.

I'm not quite sure how I agreed to sign up for this event.  Although I consider myself decently fit, 1) I'm out of shape from cutting back on working out, and 2) stairs have always made me lose my breath and get my legs all locked up.

Notice how this building dwarfs the others...

This event, which benefits the YMCA, involves climbing up the stairs of the U.S. Bank Tower, one of the tallest buildings on the West coast.  (The "down" portion is elevator, thankfully for my knees.) This sucker is 75 floors tall.  As a reference, the building I work in has 54 floors, and in my previous job, 3 floors.  It's not like I even use the stairs regularly, unless it's just a few floors.  And a few months ago, I tripped on a stair step at Union Station in front of everyone during rush hour.

However, I'm not one to back out from something like this, so my ego got the best of me once again.

I knew I should train, but I was never serious enough to stay after work to attend organized training.  In the couple of months prior, I tried to walk up the stairs during lunchtime walks, but this wouldn't last very long due to me sweating in the summer sun in my work clothes and somewhat uncomfortable "work-appropriate" lunchtime walking shoes.  A few mornings (and once or twice after work), I'd take the elevator to the lowest floor that was permissible and walk ten floors before going to my floor.  Sometimes, I'd go back down and repeat this.  I timed some of these and saw I was coming in at around 2 minutes and 15 seconds, which I figured wasn't bad because I had my canvass bag full of stuff and was not in workout gear.  However, these jaunts would get me sweaty and short of breath, and I'd multiply 10 floors in 2.25 minutes by 7.5 (for the 75 floors of the actual event) and lose confidence in myself.

I did not enter this with any intention to "compete."  Since there were team-timings in addition to individual, though, I worried I'd let my team down, especially since I'm fairly new at my job and have a reputation as a runner... not good, especially when said job/commute sucks up a lot of what used to be "training" time.

I honestly don't have a lot of memories of these 17 minutes.  There was a lot if heavy breathing, sweat, and general nervousness that I'd fall. I started to lose it/get nauseated by the 60ish floor, though my heart rate was sky high by the 20s... Counting down seemed to help.

Just like a running event, I was never so happy to reach the finish!!



Post-mortem (like what I did after LA Marathon 2012), here are some tips for doing this event that I am jotting down for future use:

1) Bring a water bottle.  This Amphipod one that I have would have been great because it stays on the hand. The air was dry, and water stations were not frequent enough for me. By the end, I was so dry that I tasted slight blood (tmi?).

2) The air is stuffy in stairwells, unlike outdoors (generally), so breathe calmly if possible.

3) Don't start out too quickly! I was conservative because I knew I would die if I did... Maybe a little TOO conservative, but better safe than hurling.

4) Although tempting, don't stop! Just keep going if you can. Extra heaving breaks aren't particularly useful, so I kept going. Plus, I was getting crampy, so keeping at it was best.

Overall, I just wanted to accomplish this new vertical PR in one piece. Next time, I would definitely train more and wear lighter shoes/clothing.

Some pics of the day:





Friday, September 20, 2013

Five in a Row

I ran five days in a row this week!  The last time anything like that happened was more than a year ago, when I was on a business trip that didn't require me to wake up at 5:15 am every morning in order to fit a workout in the day.

This "mini-streak" was "The Ukrainian"'s idea.  As I've mentioned, it's too dark, hilly, buggy, wild animal-y and uneven to run alone in the mornings.  Morning is really the only time I have without counting on myself to go on a run when it's hot out after work and after wearing heels all day and often standing on the hour+-long commute home.  It just wouldn't happen, and the evening chores don't do themselves.  So I only run when "The Ukrainian" says he'll run with me in the morning, which had gone from once or twice a week to three times a week... and this week, five times.

We basically ran the same path daily, which is somewhere between 3.5 and 4 miles.  When time and exhaustion don't give me excuses on the weekends, we run a mile or so more, a little later so it's not as dark and I can actually enjoy the views rather than fear every rustle and keep my head looking down for cracks in dark crevices.  This is not a lot of mileage by any means, but the majority of it is uphill, particularly in the ending parts.  Beyond the challenges listed in the paragraph above, it had been hot and humid a lot of this summer, even that early in the day.  By the time I'd be climbing those final inclines, I'd be huffing and puffing like a contestant that just started on The Biggest Loser.  At least, that's the first image that popped in my head as I was struggling not to heave.

As we've been running more, I feel myself struggling less.  Perhaps it's because it has actually been in the 60s instead of the 70s in the mornings lately, or maybe.... I'm regaining some of my fitness?  I sure hope so... because as you can see from my sidebar, there are a couple of races in my future that seem practically impossible right now.  I'm pretty sure I've even slimmed down ever so slightly, which is an indication to me that I haven't been working out hard enough and need to figure out how to do that in the new dwelling.

While running five times is nothing to gloat about to some (many?), I'm hoping it will be a turning point for me.  Now that the weather is just starting to be a bit merciful, I'm hoping I can do some longer runs on the weekends and since I won't be given more time on the weekdays, I can consider those "speed work."  Well, that and running several blocks to catch the bus home.

It's the small steps that add up???

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Home is Where the Food Is

In spite of my lack of cooking posts, there has definitely been plenty of it around here.  A strange new place feels more like home once you start making food in it!

In those last couple weeks before we moved out, there were meals like this:

Wild Planet Foods lemon sardines.  Very convenient and tasty on baguettes and lower in mercury than other canned fish!

One of our wedding gifts in action!
In those last weeks, we were making a game out of cooking with whatever we had in the pantry.  I think I baked a batch of banana-date scones with whole-wheat pastry flour that was starting to go a bit south.  I've been back at it again.  I really love my kitchen. =)  It's not big with an island, but it's clean, and somehow we manged to fit everything in spite of less cabinet space.  Perhaps I'll post more detailed photos someday, but I really love that I can plug in my appliances everywhere, and everything wipes off easily.  We wasted the first few weeks just eating rice and salad, until I starting feeling comfortable.

I made bread again.  I've been making it a couple of times a month, usually just using the food processor.  The results have been variable since I can't seem to decide what I really want in the end.  The first time I made it in the new place, it came out pale and sunken.  Thus, below is a photo of the time before that -- my favorite so far because it had a nice, soft texture.


As alluded to in many recent posts, I haven't really been working out much on the weekends anymore.  Not that I haven't been doing other things, such as riding my bike, hiking, and yard work -- but those things allow me just a little extra time in the morning to make breakfast.

Got any crepes?  Eaten with too many Ikea jams.
Had one too many brown bananas and quickly threw together some vegan banana pancakes using the first recipe I found online.  Topped with more Ikea jam.

Lastly, dessert.  I've made these grain-free pecan "shortbread" cookies from this site a few times and am getting better results each time.  I think they key is getting them thin.

Silpat baking mat making an appearance again... was also another wedding gift!  Best thing ever!


Also, these blueberry oat bars have made a reappearance.  I used leftover (unpasteurized) pomegranate juice from the farmer's market for the juice and a mixture of frozen berries that I had on hand instead of blueberries.

I've also made vegan lasagna, various rice dishes, and a few other things that didn't make it to the camera.  Not bad for the first month.

In a time of transition, cooking/baking is comforting.  With our housewarming and holidays(!) coming soon, I definitely have my work cut out for me.  I just procured a candy thermometer, so this should be a fun holiday season.

More later!

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FTC Disclaimer: I received a sample of Wild Planet Foods to try but was not otherwise compensated to review the product in any particular way.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Focus T25 - Core Speed

It's been some time since I've posted a T25 review, and there's a pretty good reason for that... probably not as exciting as for some, though.

I mentioned that I'm having a few adjustment issues since moving.  First, running in the morning is now something I can only do with company, since it's so dark out, hilly and uneven, and wild animals are known to be in the area (haven't seen any yet, though!).  I know I could "woman up" and just run on my own with lights and pepper spray, but I don't enjoy running in fear.  The other day, I was running in front of "The Ukrainian," when I started yelling because I had just run thorough a FREAKING SPIDER WEB the size of my body that I obviously couldn't see in those conditions.  I'm used to running through webs, but this one was huge and not something I could easily brush off.  I had the "heebies" until I got home and showered.

The second issue I'm having is the floor.  There is a hairline crack in the ceiling, and the house is not directly on the floor, so there are some shock-absorption issues that make me paranoid that I'll "break" the house if I jump around too much.  So for now, I've been doing barre-type workouts when I'm not running.  Once in a while, I'll still pop in Insanity or T25, but I do it at lower intensity until we figure out how to handle the new situation.

Anyway, the one I snuck in most recently was Core Speed, which is a disc that you can either get separately or thrown-in if you ordered from a Beachbody coach.  I actually met my coach through MyFitnessPal.  This 25-minute workout consists of a few series repeated a few times that increase in speed.  For example, quick jabs, 1-2-3 clap, zig-zag hop, L-squat, up-and-overs, and criss-cross/burpee criss-cross.  You do that a few more times, increasing in speed but for a shorter time.

In the second series, we meet the one-handed burpee.  How is this even possible without breaking your wrist??  I took it easy to save my ceiling and my arm, but basically, the key to this move is having a strong core.  I definitely expected this to not be so cardio-intensive (being a "core" video), but having done so many of Shaun T's workouts, I don't know why I was surprised.  You definitely have to keep holding in your core, even if you're tired.

I probably would have burned a bit more if I could fully exert myself, but I was just happy to try this disc, finally.  It's pretty apparent that I've stepped down the intensity of my workouts, because after something like this, I'm definitely sore the next day.  Truthfully, I haven't even been working out on the weekends anymore, so out of shape, I am.  Once the weather cools down and I find a really good mat or something, I am looking forward to stepping things back up, but I think I will let myself enjoy a less intense period for a while.  I have to say, I rather enjoy the extra time, which is exactly why T25 is so appealing.

I'll eventually get to the Beta workouts!! ;)

Caloric burn (without stretch): 240** (see note above about my intensity)

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**Calorie burn measured by my heart-rate monitor and will vary for people based on their gender, body composition, height, weight, and a plethora of things, so take it lightly!!

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Swirlgear Capped Sleeve Shirt

It's been a while since I've worn a fun, pink running shirt.  In fact, I don't really have any pink running clothes at all.  I think it's usually more practical for me to wear whatever I get from races, and I like my shorts dark.

The exception.

It's not that I have anything against pink inherently -- I think it's just an issue with my skin tone clashing with it.  Also, pink items *tend* to be a little bit see-through, if you catch my drift -- but that's the point... don't want anyone to catch any of my drifts, ha ha.

I recently got to try Swirlgear's Capped Sleeve Shirt, which I found super cute!


I've probably mentioned before that I am pretty self-conscious about my arms because my shoulders slope down and results in my arms being too close to my body, which results in major "flab-amplification."  (I also tend to store fat in them, so double-whammy.) I can't believe I'm admitting this on here, but it's a known fact for me and I'm getting old enough to not care anymore.  So I tend to stay away from "cap-sleeves" because they tend to draw attention to my arms.

However, this shirt didn't really make me feel self-conscious because it seems to cover my upper arms sufficiently.  And it wasn't see-through.  And I thought it actually looked cute on me, or I'm just not used to seeing myself in pink.  Either way, I had an extra spring in my step because for once I wasn't wearing something masculine or frumpy.

Sorry for the long face... it was dead early in the AM.

It has been TERRIBLY humid lately, so I was impressed that the shirt did keep the sweat off my body.  Overall, a very flattering shirt!

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In other news... 

I just finished with jury duty and escaped being on a 10-12 day trial, which is great because even in the two days I was out of the office, the workload piled high.  I got out particularly early yesterday and was able to basically enjoy a day "off"!  What did I do?  Stuff myself with sandwiches and Oreos, take a soak bath in my new house, and watch Magic Mike (I'm behind on stuff, so yeah... my review: meh).  Although things are crazy again with holidays (L'shanah tova!), birthdays, and everything else, I'm glad I had a brief chance to rest.

Here are some random photos as of late:

Goat and pimento chips.  Kind of stinky! (World Market)

I nearly cried when I paid my credit card bill for a dog + cat vet appointment, but it's all worth it.

I whine about the trains a lot, and this guy clipping his nails on it is partly why.  He also had all these "Money over b@^ches" tattoos...


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FTC Disclaimer: I was sent a sample of Swirlgear clothing but was not otherwise compensated to write a review.  Learn more about their Kickstarter campaign here!