Friday, January 31, 2014

Year of the Horse

Happy New Year!

Since this year is bound to be full of changes and excitement for my family, I found it especially important to visit a temple today.  This is normally something I do with my parents, but the timing didn't work out.  Luckily, I was able to tweak my transit commute a bit to take care of this in time to get to work.

The other day, I was thinking how grateful I was to be living in a country that has allowed my parents to be removed from unfavorable circumstances and my siblings and me to become contributors to society and live in general comforts -- all the while being able to partake in (some version of) our traditions.  I am also glad to live in an area where I am able to buy (mostly) traditional things and visit (somewhat) traditional places, as well as hear people speak my (other?) native language.  On top of all that, I get to drink Chamangos in El Monte (and Chula Vista!), attend Bat Mitzvahs, and make pseudo-Japanese food in my kitchen to remind myself of a distant land.

So, may there be fortune and luck to all (I bought a lottery ticket around the corner just before the temple), and let us not forget all the fortune that has already arrived.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Maiden Voyage (of the Dutch Oven)

The cookware in our kitchen had been kind of embarrassing.  Over the years, I've been doing a lot of cooking in "The Ukrainian"'s old basic pots (see this post if you really want to know) and some hand-me-downs from a friend who moved on to better things (example in this post).

Since we already had all this stuff, we didn't register for new cookware when got married.  I mean, why ask for what you already have, right?  Until I realized that I was practically wearing a hole into some of the pot bottoms, and everything would stick and cook unevenly.

I had toyed around with the idea of a dutch oven for years.  My foodie friend had bought a small one at Crate & Barrel for less than $100 with what he calls good results.  At the time, I figured there was no reason to cook with something that heavy and that expensive.

Then, I won a Le Creuset baking dish on a blog.  I didn't use said dish for close to a year (because I still had my trusty cheap ones!), but once I started to use it more after I moved and unearthed it, I realized its quality.

Fast forward to Carlsbad Marathon weekend -- we were at the outlet mall, and they were clearing out a bunch of Le Cruset stuff due to... color!  That's right.  I could pass up a green dutch oven if it came at a low price.  So this 5.5 quart guy came home with us, and hopefully will grow old with us and be passed down to the next generation.

I was afraid to cook in it, as there were some care rules I had never heard of before.  No heating it up higher than a medium temperature.  No quick temperature changes.  No dry cooking.  You get the point.  Maybe this is why I ruin everything I touch.

We decided that the maiden voyage of this piece of cookware should be split pea soup.  We have been to this place called Split Pea Andersen's several times, seemingly each time we leave town to go up north, though I haven't really blogged about it.  On a recent visit, I noticed they had their recipe on the back of a sack of split peas.  It really didn't seem like rocket science, so I gathered some stuff I already had and went for it.

So here's the final result.  I didn't get intermediary photos (explanation below), but I will say that A) this really did taste authentic and B) dutch ovens take a long time to heat up, especially if you can't crank the temperature and decide you want to double the recipe.

My soup is a bit chunkier than the real version, as I was conservative with the immersion blender and also with the amount of water that I felt could safely fit in the pot.  I'm pretty sure I didn't need a dutch oven to get this result, but since it's larger than anything else we have, it DID make a lot of soup!

Eaten with some of my homemade bread and another avocado from the tree (why do they all have to ripen at once?), squeeze of lemon, and pepper flakes.

Other simultaneous kitchen happenings (when I have time on Saturdays, I cook a ton):

Cauliflower bread.  This cross-section picture is crappy -- I later ate a slice from the middle of the loaf, which looked WAY better and even.

Also, teriyaki sauce/rice/veggies/chicken.  I can't believe how simple it is to make teriyaki sauce.   

So far, I don't know the full extent of what one could do with a dutch oven and whether it was worth the splurge, but I do look forward to more cooking experiments using it (for example, dutch oven bread!).  I definitely want to work on improving my cooking skills because I keep getting disappointed by restaurants and am a homebody who still wants to eat different types of food.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Review: Jillian Michaels' Banish Fat, Boost Metabolism

This video has taken me forever to review!

As you know, I have done a lot of Jillian Michaels videos (6 Week 6 Pack, 30 Day Shred, No More Trouble Zones, Ripped in 30, Yoga Meltdown) because I don't belong to a gym and work out at home.  Besides her being so well-known, her videos are inexpensive on Amazon and widely available in stores, so I keep seeing them and wanting them.

What I mostly like about this one is that it requires no equipment.  I mean, you are definitely better off with a mat, but no weights, bands, kettlebells, or anything else is required.  Nobody is using them, either, so it's not like "oh, you don't need this, but you kind of should have this."

The workout claims to be 40-minutes, which I will tell you right now is NOT true.  With a tight morning schedule like mine, this really matters.  In fact, I rarely have time to do this workout on weekdays due to it being more like 55 minutes (warm-up + cool-down), and I often skip either warm-up or cool-down in the process.

Jillian does six circuits, which consists of 5-6 moves that are repeated twice.  I feel like this is one circuit too many, but others can see it as "bang for your buck."  A couple of circuits have a kickboxing theme, while one is calisthenics, one core, etc.  I think the second circuit is the toughest, as it involves jumping and squatting a lot in succession.  If I were more creative, I could skip over a circuit to make this fit within a more reasonable time window, and I'd probably choose the second kickboxing one, because I felt it was a little light in intensity (though probably because it is a recovery one).

I burned over 300 calories doing this workout, which is not bad for 45-50-ish minutes,so it's definitely worth trying out.  A lot of Jillian's other workouts are more strength-focused, and this is definitely more cardio-focused, which is a great supplement.  It's not as high-impact as Insanity or Focus T25, though it still involves some plyometric moves.  Also, I found Jillian to be the least banter-y (annoying?/chatty?) in this video than some of the others.

I know Jillian has a handful of newer videos, but I have to run through my many other videos to financially justify getting more.  My disc player is definitely getting its own workout, though!

If you're curious, I believe you can try Banish Fat, Boost Metabolism online here:

Thursday, January 23, 2014

It's a Stretch

I'm not going to write about runners' stretches, though I should be doing a lot more of that post-race.  [By the way, did you see my official photos?] 

Moving around as part of my daily public transit commute has been helpful, yet painful all at once. I'm pretty sure, though, that the only reason I haven't ballooned since my workout time has been cut in half is due to the extra walking I do to get to/from work (and during a part of my lunch break most days).

Daily stretching was mandatory at one of my previous jobs, but some went beyond that.  I guess I was still young and limber (HAH!) and didn't see a need for anything more.  For the past several weeks, I have been doing hourly -- well, almost hourly due to skipping some going on lunch break, stretches at my desk.  While I had been trying to get up often at work, it IS still a lot of sitting, typing, and unnatural positions.  I had lower back pain earlier in the year last year, though that went away after I requested a back cushion.  Still, I was often feeling stiff and slouchy.

The stretches I've been doing come from this publication.  However, a quick Google search of "office stretch Bob Anderson" should get you the one without me reposting it here.

I took the diagram with 10 stretches, pasted it into my Outlook, and have an "event" pop up every hour or so on workdays.  It takes two minutes and has slightly improved my posture and decreased my forearm pain.  I'm sure it helps my eyes get a break, too, but that's a whole other story.

In other news, I started working out again after the marathon on Tuesday, as I was too sore on Monday.  Instead, I cleaned out my closet and threw up a bunch of stuff of eBay.  I've been on a selling kick since I discovered the eBay app and how easy it is to sell stuff using just my phone.  Oh, and I recorded this video of the cat.

I thought it was such a novel video, but it turns out there are a zillion similar videos, so my aspiration to post something viral is dead.

My sister got me got my Physique 57 Volume 2, which I am SUPER excited to try.  You may recall that I started Physique 57 Volume 1 last year, and as I got more regular with it, it's been great.  However, I am sort of waiting for my legs to feel normal again first.  Volume 1 has am arm/ab video that I've been able to do during this recovery period, but Volume 2 seems harder all around.  Review coming later!

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Carlsbad Marathon 2014

EVENT: Carlsbad Marathon
DATE: Sunday, January 19, 2014
LOCATION: Carlsbad, CA
RACE BEGAN: 6:15 am
FINISH TIME: 04:38:52

This is probably going to be a lot longer than it should, but as I mentioned not too long ago, I was intending this to be my last marathon for a while, so I really wanted to be as mentally present as I could.

In the days before the race, I gradually made most of my meals very carb-y, rather than eating a ton of food like I might have tried in the past.  I mean, I was eating plenty, but I was trying to be smart.  After running marathons for 7 years, I know better than to stress out my already-off GI tract by introducing a whole bunch of new stuff.

Friday -- rice balls (onigiri) and spicy miso ramen:

On Saturday, we arrived at the expo around noon, and getting in and out was easy.  I was actually able to sample everything without terrible disorderly crowds, which is one thing I have always appreciated about the Carlsbad races.

The race loot is below -- long sleeved tech tee, drawstring bag, and sandals (only for marathoners)!

We then waked around the mall, as this is the start/stop point of the race, as well as where the expo was located.  Then, we realized Carlsbad had outlets, so we went there, and we (I) made a killing.  Watch out frumpiness, I'm working on ya!

For dinner, we had Thai food.  It actually worked out well -- carb-y, low gluten/roughage, and tasty. Obviously, Thai food is tricky if you're not used to it, but we stuck with fried rice and pad thai.

Turned in at around 9:30 and woke up -- get this -- at 5.  This was glorious, as it's pretty much my normal weekday wake-up time.  We headed to the race, waited in our car until past six, went to use the porta-potty, and got into place before the 6:15 start-time.  Thank you, Carlsbad Marathon, for making the start of the race as stress-free as can be.

The temperature around the start was around 50 degrees, though it heated up gradually and hit the low 70s at the end.  If you've been reading here for a while, you will know that I consider anything over low 60s to be too hot to run for long, and with a marathon, that threshold is even lower..  Given that it's been 80+ fahrenheit for the past week or so in Los Angeles, we knew it was going to be a warm-ish day out there.  I think I signed up hoping for much cooler weather.

So here's the elevation map.  I have always erroneously assumed that Carlsbad is a flat race, and I believe this is because I used to see ads touting that they were the flattest course on whatever side of whatever.  But in the times I've run the half (here and here), I realize this is not true.  Similarly, the full marathon was pretty gnarly.  It's not the same course as the half -- it splits off and joins/re-joins at several points.

Here are my splits:

Mile 1 - 9:12
Mile 2 - 9:15
Mile 3 - 9:28
Mile 4 - 9:19
Mile 5 - 9:28

Started off comfortably.  With my low-mileage training, I knew I'd have to run this race intelligently, so I tried to turn my brain on rather than letting my body just go.  It was still dark when we started, so I did enjoy the quiet of that.  I was trying to hold back, as my training runs were way slow.  I wanted to hang around the 9:40-ish mark, which is what I most often saw looking down at my Garmin, though it doesn't look that way here. 

Consumed throughout race: Vega Sport, Ultima, water, 4 Clif Shots, and 2 Honey Stinger chews (one pre-race), 4 Salt Sticks

I was trying to take it easy, enjoy the light breezes and the spectators who had some great signs.  Although I called this blog what it is (I was young and naive??), I didn't really enjoy the "Run now, poop later.  Never trust a fart" signs.  My favorite ones were "I thought you said this was 2.62" and "Hurry up!  Football is on!"

Mile 6 - 10:06

Took my first breaks around this point, to loosen my legs, put on sunscreen chapstick, etc.

Mile 7 - 9:40
Mile 8 - 10:03

There was a really nasty, long climb here, though I was steady and saw "The Ukrainian" on the turn-around.

Mile 9 - 9:56
Mile 10 - 9:46
Mile 11 - 9:38
Mile 12 - 9:35
Mile 13 - 10:23

Hit the half-way point around 2:08.  I knew that these next miles were critical to the rest of the race, so I slowed down.  I'd stretch once in a while to extend my "life" -- you know, basically extend the time in between being okay and then inevitably getting cramps.  You will also know if you have been reading here for a while that I have this problem no matter how much or little I train.  This is when I knew that I was making the right decision about not running marathons anymore for the time being.

Mile 14 - 10:09
Mile 15 - 10:10
Mile 16 - 10:31 -- steep climb here, and the sun could be felt now
Mile 17 - 9:44

There were a series of nasty climbs here, as well.  They seemed long, and twice as steep at that point.  Luckily, the half-marathoners were coned off so we wouldn't merge too soon, which I was thankful for because I didn't have to weave around them.

Mile 18 - 10:50
Mile 19 - 10:51
Mile 20 - 10:42
Mile 21 - 10:55

Around this point, I felt "the twitch," which as always, was sudden in spite of my best efforts to take breaks.  I think my legs were just tired of going what felt like up and up with little relief down.  I felt another twitch later, and then I felt my thighs twitching, too, even my inner thighs, which is something I've never had before.  I guess my body always finds new ways of surprising me.  So I walked, because there was no way I could run, as I didn't really feel like pulling a muscle today and taking over 5 hours to finish.  While I wanted to keep my pace and beat 4:30, I saw that pace group pass me, so then my new goal was sub-4:40 (which was the goal that I posted, and I regretted posting it during that time).

Mile 22 - 12:33
Mile 23 - 14:36
Mile 24 - 14:43

After all that walking, I felt a little more functional and ran/walked.  We were climbing more, so I knew there wasn't much I could do, but still.  Finally, we hit a downhill stretch, and I gunned it (carefully!) thanks to the song that came on -- Eminem's "Stronger Than I Was."  I am always happy to be able-bodied to finish a marathon running rather than hobbling on pulled muscles.

Mile 25 - 12:28
Mile 26 - 10:39
.2 - 9:54

And, 4:38 -- I believe this was my fifth best time (top 1/3 of my now 15!), so although it's really mediocre, I'm not disappointed at all.  The course was way tougher than I imagined... harder even than LA Marathon, which usually manages to humble me (which is why I'm not doing it this year).

You can see how much sun we were getting in this picture, and the drive out of the parking lot took 40 minutes.  We almost missed our hotel check-out time, which they already extended by an hour.  We made it there with no time to shower and barely avoiding a $50 charge.

Race photos!

The last mile or so.  Trying to keep it together!

They called my name on the loudspeaker!

Possibly my last marathon finish -- a little hat-tip to Boston.

And just like that, my marathoning career is over for now.  I'm hoping that someday, I'll find the will and slow-twitch muscle capacity to pick it up again.  I just think that some people adapt well to marathons, and others don't.  I, twitch-y and flat-footed, apparently, don't.  But I've had my run (pun intended), and I'm sure I'll enjoy the lesser distances just as much.  This (quitting) won't take away from everything I've done, and I'll still stay in shape and am still proud of myself for getting to 15.  At least, this is what I'm telling myself.

Post race noshing.  I need to take care of myself (and we have a ton of avocados), as I have another race in two weeks.  Stay tuned!

Oh! And P.S. -- In spite of his flu and the cold we both had earlier this month, "The Ukrainian" rocked this in 3:34!

Monday, January 13, 2014

Marathon Week

It was wayyyy back in June when I decided to sign up for the Carlsbad Marathon.  This seems like a lifetime ago.  I was coming off of my somewhat okay (considering the lack of training) performance at the Mountains 2 Beach Marathon and figured I could pull one last one out before retiring from marathoning for a while.

Since then, I moved, and although training around my new hilly neighborhood was tough, I think "The Ukrainian" and I did okay.  We started vamping up in September, running 10 miles, 12, 15, stepped down a bit, and then took a break when we went on vacation.  Before we knew it, it was December, so we managed to fit a 16 (+ .4)-miler and what was supposed to be a 20-miler that became more like an 18-miler because we both had colds.

Then, it was back to our usual 3-4 mile morning jaunts, followed by "The Ukrainian" getting what I assumed was the flu.

I made egg drop soup to celebrate, erm, rectify, the situation.

Thankfully, I had gotten a flu shot, though I felt a little run down fighting it off and still recovering from the earlier bout.  So there has been very little running around here.  I have otherwise been keeping active, though, with my various videos.

With just six days remaining, I plan on going on a few short runs to get myself used to doing that again.  And eating well.

Homemade pizza (my first time making my own crust)!

In spite of everything, I think I AM ready, as ready as I have been for other races.  I feel like I still have a good amount of endurance, and perhaps some fresh mental energy that comes from not burning out.  As you can probably guess, I don't have any terribly lofty goals for this race, though I do hope to relax and try to enjoy myself as much as possible.  And yes, I'm aiming for about 4:30-4:40, which is dismal but about all I can strive for at the moment.

Monday, January 6, 2014

The Start

Happy New Year!

It's time to grasp the new year by the horns, and not by the neck in an attempt to make a cat beard with a heavy cat who doesn't like to be lifted.

I came out of last year kind of weary.  Although I worked through the holidays for the first time in a couple of years, I'm feeling a bit energized.  So, while everyone is being good and I'm eating candy the day before a dental appointment (no cavities!), I am trying to feed off of everyone's good intentions and being productive while it lasts. 

First up, bread.

I mentioned making bread in another post.  It was a baking goal of mine last year, and I have made a few different kinds, repeatedly.  However, after moving in August, I had not been able to make a single successful batch.  Specifically, none of my dough ever seemed to rise properly, and I thought it was a curse of the new house.  However, in my first real baking attempt of 2014, I had the best results ever, cutting off a slice straight from the oven and patting on some butter (ok, well, Earth Balance spread).  It was crispy on the outside, soft and airy on the inside with no yeastiness at all.  I had not lived until I ate this fresh bread.

Top: failure (still eaten, though) / Bottom: success

I've been quite busy in the kitchen, getting back on making snacks like these bars.

Here's what we made out of packaged ramen that came from our trip to Japan.  Yes, we really did make the switch to organic eggs, and wow, are they different.  For one thing, they stay silky even if you overcook them, which is easy to do because the cooking time for these differs significantly from the conventional.

I've also gotten into pickling vegetables, making dashi (Japanese stock that's a base of a lot of recipes), and even rice balls.  Here's what I'm having from lunch today!


Most of my other efforts have been focused around gardening.  The weeds really had a field day out there, so we have had to deal with those on top of normal cleaning and mowing.  Oh, and fruit -- in a short time, we picked this amount times two:

Avocados, orange, and lemons.  Only in California!

As for me, I'm trying to dress a little better this year, since I felt so frumpy last year.  Not good for self-esteem OR professionalism.  So gotta pull out the heels and all that stuff once in a while...

Some big things are sitting in the queue this year -- more auntie-hood, Big Sur, and... a return trip to New York to show it to "The Ukrainian."  I'm looking forward to more happiness and living in the moment this year.  This is something I have not really been good at, but for sanity's sake, it needs to happen now.

Even if things aren't always ideal, it's time to "wing" it (which will be soon, as I'm running a marathon in 13 days!)!

Cake pop failure! ;)