Race Recap – Bad Bass Half Marathon

Race Recap – Bad Bass Half Marathon

Last weekend was the definition of a humble summer getaway. I knew going into this summer that going on an extravagant summer vacation would not be in the cards this year—primarily due to work demands—but I am grateful for being able to have things fall in place so that I was able to have more than one occasion to visit the family.

I thought my weekend in June would be my only opportunity this summer, but thankfully, things worked out so that another weekend trip would be possible!

True, I still had to work on Wednesday, and was up at the early morning hour of 4AM in order to pack and get all of my critical, time-sensitive tasks done, but at least two things made my day.

#1 was having B&J’s Cherry Garcia Frozen Yogurt for “breakfast”, and realizing that I ended up satisfying a hidden cherry craving I didn’t know I had until I demolished the pint in 20 minutes.

cherry garcia froyo
It may be froyo, but the cherries were still soft, and surprisingly not rock-solid from the frozen conditions they were mixed in!

#2 was taking in this gorgeous sunset during my evening/night bus trip up north. We were at a rest stop around 8pm, and I couldn’t help but admire the sky and its golden beauty…

Reststop Sunset
Summer sunsets <3

I made it to Oakland around midnight, and was picked up by my Dad. We were both too tired to keep a cohesive conversation going, but we made it home safely and I promptly hit the hay.

Since my parents are in the middle of a move, the next two days were spent primarily at home, since we had to be available when the painters, contractors, and realtor were around. Besides going out for a run, or going to the gym with Dad, I spent those 48 hours either eating, napping, or watching TV. The life I tell ya…

I did find some time to make it out to my favorite discount grocery store though, and was able to find this somewhat rare flavor from B&J’s Greek line…

raspberry fudge chunk (1)
Wasn’t a true fan of this flavor, but I’m glad I got to try it.

I call it rare since I haven’t been able to find it in the LA area anyways! Plus, it says “Still a Pint!” along the lid, so I’m assuming that there must have been some confusion about this flavor not existing anymore…

Well, I certainly wasn’t confused after taking the first couple of spoonfuls. There was definitely a fruity tang with each spoonful (pretty much how a frozen Chobani would taste), but the sweetness from the fudge chunks was just enough to balance out that. It was quite impressive to see how one simple mix-in could do so much to “rescue” a flavor!

I bid my last goodbye to my childhood home on Saturday morning, and my Dad and I drove off towards Lake Chabot to finally run a race together! He has been on a “5K-a-Day” regimen lately, and when he suggested that he we sign up for a race together, I immediately started looking for any and all races that we could do together over the summer.

The Bad Bass 5k/10k/Half Marathon fit our schedules, but it was far from being a simple run in the park. It was where this race that I participated in at the tail end of last year took place, and I remember the hills being extra killer. Even the race organizers call it an ULTRAhalf, and the course is part of their “Ultra Half Challenge”.

It was somewhat chilly when we arrive in the parking lot, but I was able to walk comfortably in my shorts + tee over to the starting area. The weather was much more tolerable when compared to how things were back in December!

1-getting to race
Race start.

Even though the course wasn’t expected to be, packet pick-up was quite easy. I’ve become more appreciative of race day pick-ups and bag checks as of late…

registration
Time for packet pick-up!

My Dad ended up getting a cotton tee while I got a women’s tech tee. I actually don’t remember registering for one, so that was a pleasant surprise!

bad bass shirts
The race shirts were fun :3

After pinning on our bibs and taking care of things in the restroom, I joined other half marathoners at the start line at ten minutes to 8:30AM. For a challenging 13.1 miles on trail, I was part of quite a large group.

We were sent off with the sound of bag pipes floating behind us, keeping in theme with the race around Loch Chabot.

bag pipes
Bag pipes!

The first half of the race posed a challenge right off the bat. A little after Mile 2, before Mile 3, we approached our steepest, most difficult climb yet. It didn’t make sense to run up the tower of a hill, so I ended up interrupting my stride and slowing to a steady fast-walk.

The whole course was an ebb and flow of ups and downs. Some people let the downhills get the best of them, and I saw plenty of flailing arms and wobbling bodies’ race past me from time-to-time. I did not get any severe knee pains (knock on wood!) while hitting the downhills, and I focused on channeling the momentum from those downhills to power me through the immediate uphills.

There were times we had to run single file, and towards the second half of the race, it was pretty isolated and we were deep in the heart of the woods…like, the trees were so tall you couldn’t see the sun deep…

We also got to take in the most breathtaking views of the lake, and I was so mesmerized that I ended up falling, and scraping my elbow/palms of my hands.

PARK and lake
Park near the lake.

The injuries were minor, but I was fortunate to be near a half marathon hiker who had band-aids and wipes galore. She and another runner were sweet enough to stop and check to see if I was okay, and this small moment only emphasized the fact that we runners are part of such a gracious, giving, and kind community.

I finished my first trail half with a time that was plenty far from my true half PR, but at least I finished with what counts—sore legs, and battle scars. Yeah, the medals were fun to receive and wear after the race, but feeling the aftermath of an extreme workout is what I think is the true medal of honor.

medals
Got the race medal, as well as an age group winner medal!

My Dad’s 5k started at 9:10AM, so even though he took about an hour to complete it (it was a trail 5k after all), he was still at the finish line waiting for me! It was so great to see him and his medal at the end :)

After grabbing our goody bags, it was obviously snack time.

SNACKZZZZ
It’s snack time kidsssss!

I passed all the pretzels/cookies/cakes/brownies in favor for the token ice cream sandwiches that associate with Brazen Racing races. I ended up getting strawberry + pumpkin, and fully enjoyed them after finally washing off the dust that had caked my hands and legs since Mile 10…

ice cream sandwiches
Strawberry & Pumpkin — the way to go!

My Dad and I found a bench to rest at while we ate, and soon after, we got up to check the results.

checking restultz
Results checkin’ time!

After spending some more time walking around and giving our muscles time to bounce back from the run, we got back in the car and drove towards Berkeley before stopping by my cousin’s place. I was able to change into some “regular” clothes at a grocery store where we also bought some fruit to share with our host.

Upon arriving at my cousin’s place, I had an extreme feeling of exhaustion overwhelm me, and I couldn’t say no to a sweet nap. After napping for almost an hour, we all had coffee, cheese, and other “afternoon slump” snacks. We heard meowing from below, and I found a mother cat and her two kittens staring up at us on the balcony!

cats & snacks
Feline cuties and afternoon snackables.

My cousin’s friends came over soon after, and we all agreed to go play table tennis at the last minute, since it seemed like a fun thing to do on a Saturday evening. Even though I played regular tennis in high school, TT is a whole ‘nother ball game, literally. I didn’t sweat, but I was certainly warm enough to not need a sweatshirt when we walked back to my cousin’s apartment.

We had dinner + a movie at home, with my cousin having prepared lentil daal, a rice/quinoa mix, sauteed garlic and pea pods, strawberries, and yogurt.

dinnah!
Dinner part 1.

Our movie that night was Queen, a fairly recent Bollywood hit, and despite there being some cheesy parts, was actually quite good.

We all went to sleep soon after since it was approaching 11PM—and I had a bus to catch the next morning!

The ride home took most of my Sunday, but I was back in my apartment while there was still daylight. After unpacking and showering, I sat down with this delectable pint of fudge brownie ice cream before sleeping away a lingering headache I carried with me from the bus ride.

cho-fud-brow
I could handle the 100% B&J’s chocolate base if it meant copious amounts of Greyston Bakery fudgy brownie chunks! They are way too good to turn down!!

There was certainly a lot of fun that went down over just 72 hours…it’s amazing how much stuff can be packed into what seems like so little time!

Have you ever run a trail race?

Do you get headaches while traveling?

LA Grow! An Evening at the Wiltern

LA Grow! An Evening at the Wiltern

Last weekend was unlike any other that I’ve experienced so far in LA, and one word sums it all up: humidity

I had to go into lab on Saturday morning, but not until later in the morning. The sky was cloudy and gray like it had been the few days prior, but the Saturday morning news alerted me about thunderstorms that would occur later in the day. Still, I left my apartment in shorts and a t-shirt since it felt warm outside, and made the mistake of “forgetting” my umbrella. 

Fortunately, I was able to take cover during the intermittent moments of downpour/thunder, but it certainly slowed me down schedule-wise. It even caused a mini power outtage in my lab building, but I was able to resume my experiments without there being any major crisis!

I finished up mid-afternoon, and made the swift decision to walk over to the grocery store before another predicted downpour. I managed to make it back to the apartment just before thunder was heard again, and saved myself from an unwanted shower. 

I spent the rest of the day/evening inputing data and working on an document with a Monday deadline (Saturday nights of a grad student…what can I say?), but at least I was able to include a celebratory pint in all of this. The featured flavor of this weekend was B&J’s Strawberry Cheesecake:

 Strawberry Shortcake -
Strawberry Cheesecake – strawberry cheesecake ice cream with strawberries & a thick graham cracker swirl

I’m normally not a die-hard cheesecake fan, but the graham-cracker swirl intrigued me and pulled me in to buy this flavor. I guess I could tolerate some cheesecake if it means there’s a sweet and crunchy swirl!

 I'm amazed by how patient I am to take these pictures...you'd think that upon ripping the lid off I wouldn't think twice about stopping to take pictures.  :P
I’m amazed by how patient I am to take these pictures…you’d think that upon ripping the lid off I wouldn’t think twice about stopping to take pictures. :P

The cheesecake ice cream actually wasn’t that bad, and tasted more like vanilla. There were some frozen strawberries mixed in, and of course the graham cracker swirl is what brought this flavor to the top…managing to keep its crunchy texture and sweet flavor.

 Inside the pint.
Inside the pint.

Sunday morning was when I experienced the aftermath humidity from Saturday’s tropical rainshowers. While it was nice to listen to the rainfall in the evening, the humidity was such a pain to deal with on my long run the next morning! After mile 6, I was pushing through with all my might to just keep going and not stop. I did make a stop at a nearby Starbucks though, to get some ice water which I held onto for dear life from mile 9 to the finish!

I was a sticky mess when I came back to the apartment, but had to get ready quickly in order to move on and get my lab work done for the day. I had exciting plans that evening, and I wasn’t going to let the humidity stop me from following through with them!

Fortunately, after getting onto the train a little after 3:30PM, I was able to keep cool in air-conditioned spaces as I made my way to Wilshire and Western. This is a stop that I have made frequent visits to, but I had never paid attention to the dark teal building right across the street—the Wiltern.

 The Wiltern Theater
The Wiltern Theater

That is, until now!

The event I was attending was the cocktail hour of LA Grow!, sponsored by Whole Foods and benefiting RootDown LA, a youth-run non-profit organization that focuses on promoting healthy food and nutrition education in South LA.

 LA Grow! event poster.
LA Grow! event poster.

Inside the theater, I picked up my drink tickets from will call (even though I didn’t use them that night since I don’t drink…), and then proceeded to the actual fest set-up in a hallway, ballroom-like area.

 Things getting started.
Things getting started.

Exhibitors were lined up along the sides of the hallway, and the first food-related booth I noticed was being run by the main sponsor, Whole Foods.

 Avocado toasts!
Avocado toasts!

The table featured mashed avocados, which we could top on thick, cracker round toasts. Additional toppings included sea salt, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and sundried pesto. I loved the sea salt and pesto + avo combination, and made frequent visits to this table over the course of the evening. 

For those of us attending who don’t drink alcohol, there were several non-alcoholic drink samples for us to taste. Harmless Harvest was giving out pink coconut water (!!) and Rebbl Tonic had a massive spread of elixirs and tonics spread out. The exotic tonics included Maca Mocha, Reishi Chocolate, and Ashwagandha Chai…all of which I tried multiple times, and found myself to be a fan of the chocolate one the most.

 Pink coconut water and exotic elixirs.
Pink coconut water and exotic elixirs.

I only tried the Ginger Citrus tonic, even though Hibsicus Mint and Forest Berry were also available. I attribute it to the fact that the citrus drink was literally glowing with a bright yellow hue, and that made it difficult to walk away from it 😉

I also passed by the Casamor Farm table, and it looked like the chef was plating small dishes featuring edible flowers! I didn’t get up close to see what exactly was going on since the area was too popular, but it looked quite intriguing from what I could tell. 

 Edible flowers?!
Edible flowers?!

Another popular table was Kye’s, a to-go food shop that sells unique nori wrap burritos…rather “Kyeritos”! They had both non-veg and vegan flavors available, and you know I definitely got the vegan one to try!

The Nahm Jim Kyerito - Seven Different Veggies, Herbs, Lotus Root, Woodear, Thai-inspired Fish Sauce, Hemp Seeds, Macadamia Nuts, Sliced Almonds, White Rice Blend, Vegan Nahm Jim Sauce
The Nahm Jim Kyerito – Seven Different Veggies, Herbs, Lotus Root, Woodear, Thai-inspired
Fish Sauce, Hemp Seeds, Macadamia Nuts, Sliced Almonds, White Rice Blend, Vegan Nahm Jim Sauce

To keep on with the vegan theme, I drifted over to the Cafe Gratitude table, and helped myself to these yam/cauliflower filled savory fold-overs. There was also a green chutney and fruit jam available to coat over as a topping!

 Yam = yum!
Yam = yum!

I also took some time to check out the pop-up garden/RootDown LA exhibit in the patio area. I was pleased to learn that a program that is invested in the overall health and wellness of urban neighborhoods exists in an area so close to where I live. Kids living in these neighborhoods, and who are involved in this program, are trained to eat and grow their own produce. They are also encouraged to get other members of their community to follow suit. It truly is change happening at the ground level, and based on the display, RootDown LA seems to be meeting their goals!

 Pop-Up Garden featuring RootDown LA's work
Pop-Up Garden featuring RootDown LA’s work

I also visited the tables of Slow Food Los Angeles, Farm Fresh to You, and Lasan (from who I grabbed a free reusable shopping bag to add to my growing collection)! Rustic Canyon’s table was another favorite of mine.

 Rustic Canyon
Rustic Canyon

Marcona almonds coated with lavendar sugar-–need I say more??

 I totally went back for seconds...and um, thirds.
I totally went back for seconds…and um, thirds.

I ended up going to many of the tables more than once, trying to avoid awkwardly bumping into others as I was eating. A communal dinner was planned to follow the cocktail hour for those who purchased tickets. It was around 6PM when the announcement to head over to dinner was heard, and that was my signal to head on home.

The air still felt warm outside, but at least now there was a cooler breeze.

 Just another cloudy summer day in LA.
Just another cloudy summer day in LA.

As I headed home, my weekend ended just like it had started—I fell asleep to the sound of rain tapping at my window that night :)

Are there local youth-driven food and nutrition training programs for kids in your area?

There’s No Such Thing as Too Much Ice Cream (or Pie)!

There’s No Such Thing as Too Much Ice Cream (or Pie)!

I’ve always been a fan of ice cream (as you can probably tell from my most recent stream of posts…), but it makes sense that my ice cream cravings are at an all-time high in the summer. The weather hasn’t been extremely hot here in LA, but I still crave the cold, creamy dessert even with the overcast and cloudy weather.

So when I had the opportunity to visit a local creamery and pie shop in West LA, I couldn’t turn it down. I had to wait until Sunday for the visit, but that didn’t hold me back from appeasing my ice cream cravings earlier in the weekend.

After finishing up in lab on Friday, I walked over to the grocery store. Along with my usual produce, bread, and dairy purchases, I splurged in another B&J’s pint to enjoy after dinner that evening.

...
My kind of Friday.

Friday’s flavor was Mint Chocolate Cookie, and I paired it with that week’s taped episode of The Astronaut Wives Club. The ice cream brought me back to my middle school days when I used to have those Snow Storm cups at lunchtime. The ice cream was quite refreshing with a minty aftertaste, and some of the sandwich cookie pieces were still intact so it was like eating mint ice cream mixed in with bite-size oreos!

Saturday was another low-key day, with a morning spent in lab, and the rest of the day spent at home just chillin’. I was mostly just organizing data, cleaning around the apartment, watching TV, and—trying out another ice cream flavor.

...
Not sure I liked the espresso bean fudge chunks a whole lot…

Since I had not tried any of B&J’s coffee-flavored pints up until this point, I decided to give Coffee, Coffee BuzzBuzzBuzz! a go. The coffee-flavored ice cream wasn’t too bad, as it wasn’t too overpowering, but I actually got tired of the espresso-fudge pieces that seemed to oversaturate the ice cream. I wouldn’t say it’s one of my favorite flavors, but perhaps someone who is a true coffee-aficionado fan would appreciate it more.

On Sunday, I had more time to venture out and check out a local & unique creamery in West LA. I woke up at 5:30AM as the sun was rising to complete a 12 mile long run, stopped by lab in the morning once again, and left a little after noon to catch the train + bus headed toward Westwood.

My trip only took ~ 1 hour since I was able to eliminate two bus transfers by taking the Big Blue Bus transit system run by Santa Monica. I used to avoid it since they didn’t accept TAP cards (the major riding pass for the Metro system of LA), but since they recently joined as a transit partner with the Metro system, that was no longer a problem! When you rely on public transit, things like this are golden nuggets of news 😉

I was dropped off close to my destination, and once I saw the A-frame chalkboard for “fresh homemade pie”, I knew I had correctly arrived at Atticus Creamery & Pies.

...
Front of Atticus Creamery & Pies

It was already 2pm by the time I stopped by on Sunday afternoon, and it was empty inside the small shop. The trademark item was out on display in a variety of colors and flavors, and there were plenty of samples on a tray at the top of the counter.

...
Pie display!

I was welcomed by a sweet girl, whose name I later learned to be Denise. Once I let her know I had come in for a tasting, she knew exactly what to do—offering me sample upon sample of pie.

...
Inside the creamery

While Denise got some extra samples ready for me, she encouraged me to try some of the samples that were already out. I obliged, and found a seat near the wall to get comfortable.

...
Getting cozy

As she was handing over samples, she made sure to enlighten me about the different kinds of pies they made, as well as their unique flavors. Cheesecake, mousse, and cream pies are the three main types of pies they serve, and I had the opportunity to try a couple that fit into each of those categories!

...
PIES!PIES!PIES!

From the cheesecake pies, I was able to sample the blueberry and raspberry flavors. Both had a soft, creamy textured layer on top, and a jam-like filling at the bottom with their respective berries. I found to like the raspberry one the best.

As for their cream pies, I was able to get a taste of their coconut banana cream pie, which is a best-seller. I could tell right away, seeing as it tasted so light, airy, and fresh. Especially fresh, since I found a whole banana slice nestled within the cream layer!

There were many unique flavor profiles offered within the mousse pie category. Two such flavors were tea-inspired: earl grey and matcha green tea, the latter of which had a white chocolate ganache layer. I knew my sister would have died to try either of these since she loves her tea. I happened to end up loving the raspberry chocolate mousse pie though. The raspberry mousse layer paired so well with the chocolate ganache layer on the bottom, so it was no surprise that it ended up being my favorite.

...
Oh, the beauty!

After I had my good share of pie, Denise brought over a beautiful tray showcasing an assortment of their pies. It was a good thing I already had tried the pies first, because if not, I may have snatched a couple of these drool-worthy beauties!

...
Sampled out on pie…

But then again, I may have been hesitant to do that since the miniature pastries were almost too pretty to eat…almost.

After spending a few minutes playing food stylist, it was time to sample the ice cream!

...
Ice cream time!

Denise was eager to have me sample as many flavors as I desired, and started me off with their best-seller: Honey Honeycomb.

...
Honey Honeycomb

I could see (and taste) why it was so popular—the sweet honey flavor certainly carried through the vanilla base, and even my spoonful stayed true to its name in appearance.

More flavors followed, as well as their “stories”…

...
So many flavors and textures!

Lemon Lavendar had a soft, humble flavor, while Cereal & Milk and Brownie A La Mode made sure to stand out in personality. Denise noted that Cereal & Milk was made with a Frosted Flakes and Rice Krispies cereal base, and that Brownie A La Mode was her true favorite. 

From there sorbet selection, I got to try the strawberry flavor and was blown away by how smooth it was. I’ve had sorbet in the past that tasted more like popsicles, so this was a pleasant surprise. Vanilla Bean was a simple, yet rich and authentic flavor, while Caramel Macchiato would make any Starbucks fan swoon. My spoonful even had a dollop of syrup!

Potato Chip Chocolate has a mild, salty aftertaste, but unfortunately (or fortunately?), I couldn’t detect any potato 😉 .  The Nutella flavor had pieces of Ferrero Rocher blended in, and Brown Sugar Apple Pie, another best-seller, actually reminded me of a frozen cinnamon roll! 

After having my fill of ice cream, I thanked Denise for her time and asked for a cup of water to balance out all the sugar I consumed. As I got ready to leave, Denise asked if I wanted to take a pie and ice cream to go. I picked out the salted caramel pie, and the York peppermint patty-flavored ice cream, since they were both flavors I did not get a chance to sample beforehand.

The pie was packaged in a clear plastic take-out box, and the ice cream was given even more special treatment. Not only was my scoop nestled in a cardboard pint container similar to what you’d find in a grocery store, the container itself was wrapped up in a foil-like baggy to prevent it from melting.

I pulled out my wallet thinking I would have to pay for these treats, but as soon as Denise handed them over to me, she sent me off with a smile without even heading to the cash register.

When I had the chance to sit down outside, I decided to give the pie a go first.

...
Salted Caramel Pie

This pie was one of their mousse pies, and I could tell by the whipped consistency of the top layer. The topping was glazed caramel popcorn, and it complimented the caramel flavor of the mousse layer. The bottom layer was chocolate ganache, and this was a pleasant surprise for me since I had not known this beforehand. I tackled the mousse layer with a fork, but once the chocolate ganache and outside crust was the only thing left, the half-eaten pie immediately became finger food.

...
Chocolate ganache anyone?

The peppermint patty ice cream was another treat I’m glad I didn’t miss out on. The ice cream was of a minty base, and it had full chunks of peppermint patties mixed in. It was almost like a flashback to Friday’s B&J’s pint, but knowing that this one was locally-made and from a fresh batch made it seem more appetizing in comparison.

...
Peppermint Ice Cream :)

It seems I should have come home that evening with a sugar coma from all of the sweet indulgences I had over the course of this weekend, but fortunately that wasn’t the case. In fact, it ironically made my love for ice cream stronger, and has pushed me to continue on my “quest” to try as many ice cream pint flavors, local creameries, and dairy-based desserts as possible.

Do you consider yourself an ice cream or pie fanatic?

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Not Quite Carrots…Sort of Cookies…

Not Quite Carrots…Sort of Cookies…

Please excuse the awkward title…at least it’s not a boring “4th of July Weekend Part blah blah” 😉

So after my sister and I completed our journey for vegan donuts, our next stop was to the beach! We realized that there was a hurdle in our plans however…since we were all the way up in Northeast LA, it was going to take at least another two hours before we arrived in West LA. Oh boy…

But, we couldn’t let traveling time get in the way of our plans. On the brightside, it would be “another adventure” for us.

We caught the train around 3pm, and transferred to a bus at Union Station. From there, things got hazy since I drifted in and out of sleep on the bus while my sister listened to music. The bus was packed by the time we got off, and we witnessed some crazy passengers saying some crazy things when we were on board. Perhaps it was the 4th of July-induced adrenaline?

We got off in Venice, and decided to walk down to Marina Del Rey where the fireworks were taking place that night. Even though we were complaining about the walking we had to do earlier in the day, this stroll was more pleasant since there was an ocean breeze along with it being overcast.

We walked alongside the path that I remember running on one of my team long runs during marathon training season. It was such a gorgeous sight to see the yachts and boats docked in the water…on a cloudy summer evening.

 Boats docked at Fisherman's Village.
Boats docked at Fisherman’s Village.

We stopped at Fisherman’s Village for some photo-taking, and pondered over whether we should stay and wait for the fireworks then and there, or continue onwards to find something to eat.

 Should we stay here until the sky gets dark? Or go find food?
Should we stay here until the sky gets dark? Or go find food?

We chose to do the latter of course, and though the walk continued to be long, we could not help but enjoy the fantastic views of the water…

 Perfect weather & views.
Perfect weather & views.

We eventually made it to Dockweiler Beach, and walked inland from there to check out the small offering of eateries and cafes. We weren’t craving anything in particular, but we were able to find a cute, veggie-friendly storefront in the middle of a strip mall.

 The Mad Carrot!
The Mad Carrot!

The Mad Carrot looked like any ol’ cafe from the front, but the colors inside were extremely warm and inviting.

 Inside...
Inside…

They had menu cards at the front, and my eyes were immediately drawn towards the Not-chos.

 Colorful menu!
Colorful menu!

Unfortunately, they were made with turkey chili, and even though I asked if they could be made without the chili, it ended up being more complicated than it should have been. So I settled for the Vegan Sausage.

The Vegan Sausage with a side of tortilla chips.
The Vegan Sausage with a side of tortilla chips.

My sister got the Veggie Melt, which also came with a side of chips…

 This one actually looked pretty good!  :P
This one actually looked pretty good! :P

Since the cafe was closing early due to the 4th of July festivities, we were given foam to-go boxes. My sis and I found a bench in the strip mall, and ate our meals before walking back to the beach. Both of us agreed that neither of our orders were knock-outs, and that we easily could have whipped something up of that caliber at home. But for the time being, it would do.

By the time we finished eating, we immediately felt weary. We had another two hours or so until the sky would be dark enough for the fireworks show. It felt like it would take an eternity though…

After some back and forth, my sister and I let our inner grannies make the decision to call it a day and head home. I arranged for our ride back with Uber, using a first-time user coupon code for a free ride up to $30! We were glad to be able to be dropped off directly at home. Needless to say, we were exhausted from our jettin’-across-LA-via-public-transit tour!

It was certainly something hot chocolate could fix!

 Yum-ay
Yum-ay

The next morning, we stayed in my apartment until an hour before my sister’s bus was scheduled to leave. After dropping her off at the station, I went by Target to pick up some eggs and a B&J’s pint for later (of course ;)) .

  Hmm...maybe I should have saved my hot chocolate to pair with this...
Hmm…maybe I should have saved my hot chocolate to pair with this…

I was thinking of getting another exclusive flavor, but when I saw Milk & Cookies for the first time ever, I knew I had to try it right away!

 Milk and Cookies pint!!!!
Milk and Cookies pint!!!!

It looked like an ice cream core when I opened it, but it just turned out to be a huge chunk of chocolate chocolate chip cookies. I am not complaining when I say this though!

Once I started making my way through the pint, it was slowly transforming from ice cream to milkshake—a “cookie shake” to be more precise.

The rest of the day, and weekend for that matter, was spent relaxing at home, and going to sleep very early. Sometimes the most fun events in life can make you (happily) exhausted.

If you live in the US, did you celebrate the 4th of July with a fireworks show?

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Delighted by Donuts

Delighted by Donuts

My sister and I went out of our way to make 4th of July a memorable one this year. Being the true foodies we are, our day was centered around making it out to a little donut shop all the way up in Northeast LA.

 But first, coffee. Actually, a vanilla latte.
But first, coffee. Actually, a vanilla latte.

I had to stop by lab yet again (yes, even on a holiday, but it was for a shorter time), and then my sister and I boarded the next bus towards Highland Park. It was a good thing the bus was air-conditioned, but we still had to walk another 1.5 miles under the hot sun…and the roads we took were through hilly neighborhoods. I guess we were getting an extra workout before donut chow-down time, but it was supposed to be a rest day weekend for me 😛 ?!

 Even after an hour long bus ride, we had to walk another 30 minutes at high noon!
Even after an hour long bus ride, we had to walk another 30 minutes at high noon!

I stopped whining when we got to York Blvd, and found the shop’s sign in the far off distance.

 Yay...we made it!
Yay…we made it!

Donut Friend, a hole-in-the-wall-but-incredibly-famous donut shop that offers an extensive amount of vegan donuts, was our prime destination for the day. Fortunately, they were open on the 4th of July holiday, and the first thing we did when we entered was stare in awe at the donut case…

 Um, what should we get?
Um, what should we get?

We also had a hard time peeling our eyes away from the mural.

 Very artsy and cute---our friend would appreciate this!
Very artsy and cute—our friend would appreciate this!

Looking at the size of the donuts, we figured one wouldn’t be enough for each of us. So we each picked two, and agreed to split each in half so we both could try four different flavors!

 We ended up getting, from left to right: Smorissey, Angry Samoa, Fudgegazi, and White Chocolate Stripes.
We ended up getting, from left to right: Smorissey, Angry Samoa, Fudgegazi, and White Chocolate Stripes.

I tried Smorissey first, which had a chocolate cake-texture, and was topped with marshmallows, chocolate glaze, and graham cracker crumbs. This donut was apparently vegan though, so the marshmallows must have been gelatin-free!!

 Looks more like a cake than a donut in this picture!
Looks more like a cake than a donut in this picture!

Even though my sister picked Fudgegazi for us to try, I ended up liking it more than she did! This guy was a true glazed donut (chocolate glazed, that is) and had a whipped chocolate cream filling with chocolate shavings on top.

 So fun to chew!
So fun to chew!

After cleansing our palates with water, we tried the other two donuts. I thought I would like Black & White Stripes, since it was a traditional glazed donut with a berry flair, but was disappointed with the lack of berry filling. The single blackberry added some pizzazz, but just not enough to woo me.

 The glaze looks decadent though...
The glaze looks decadent though…

My sister’s second pick was the Angry Samoa, and surprisingly it turned out to be my most favorite from our four selections.

 This one looks more chaotic than angry, but it certainly made me happy!  :)
This one looks more chaotic than angry, but it certainly made me happy! :)

It was another cake donut (vanilla-flavored) that was topped with a crazy amount of toasted coconut over layers of chocolate and caramel. Um, no wonder I was in love.

We took our time savoring our sweet treats, since we knew the journey onwards would be a lengthy one. We had plans to head to the beach for the fireworks later on in the day, but things ended up happening differently…

Do you prefer cake donuts or glazed?

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Pizza and a Movie

Pizza and a Movie

After spending ten straight days running, it felt glorious to sleep in, and not have to worry about getting a mandatory workout in. It was the absolute perfect way to start the three-day Independence Day weekend!

Since my sister was staying with me for a few days, we had tons of fun things planned 😉

The fun began later in the morning, after stopping by lab to check on an experiment. We were out by noon, and proceeded to take the train + bus to WeHo for a scrumptious lunch before hitting the movie theater.

 Enter, EVO Kitchen
Enter, EVO Kitchen

While it wasn’t a completely vegetarian/vegan establishment, EVO Kitchen offered plenty of organic, vegan, and gluten-free options. Many of the menu items could be made meatless upon request however. This was a fact that pleased my sister and I, after taking an extensive amount of time looking at the large offering of pizzas.

 All the pizzas sound amazing. Right before getting our pizzas, the waiter gave us some garlic salt and pepper flakes!
All the pizzas sound amazing. Right before getting our pizzas, the waiter gave us some garlic salt and pepper flakes!

The restaurant itself was small and cozy, with a smattering of booths and small tables + chairs. There was a bar to the right, and from where we were sitting, we could see part of the kitchen and the cooks hard at work!

iterior
The cozy interior.

It took a while for our pizzas to arrive (or maybe we were just that hungry?) but when they did, my sister and I split our pizzas in half to share with one another. 😉

On top: the BLEU CHEESE STEAK without steak - mushrooms, onions, marinara, mozzarella and gorgonzola // on bottom: the BBQ CHICKEN without chicken - BBQ sauce, tofu cubes, scallions, onions, soy cheese.
On top: the BLEU CHEESE STEAK without steak – mushrooms, onions, marinara, mozzarella and gorgonzola // on bottom: the BBQ CHICKEN without chicken – BBQ sauce, tofu cubes, scallions, onions, soy cheese.

Out of the two pizzas, the one I ordered [the BLEU CHEESE “STEAK”] was my favorite. I ordered it with multigrain crust, and it came out super crunchy as a result. There was also a mild tang to the marinara, and overall, was perfectly-sized for a lunch portion.

 The chili flakes added a pop of color...and just look at those scallions!
The chili flakes added a pop of color…and just look at those scallions!

The BBQ pizza, from the slices I tried, was good…just not mind-blowing. The BBQ sauce tasted more like ketchup than a spicy BBQ sauce, but at least the tofu cubes were quite chewy and added variety to the toppings.

 BBQ with tofu!!
BBQ with tofu!!

After lunch, we made a semi-made dash for the bus stop to head to The Grove. We wanted to make the 4PM showing of Inside Out, but ended up having to get tickets for the following show at 5:30PM…not because we missed the bus or anything, but rather all of the seats for the 4PM show were reserved. I have never heard of reserved seating for “regular” movies before (plays, yes), nor have I ever had to pay $15 for a movie that was not in 3D.

 A nice looking theater---inside & out (haha...)---but the $15 ticket price? Not so nice...
A nice looking theater—inside & out (haha…)—but the $15 ticket price? Not so nice…

Good thing Inside Out was beyond worth it. The story, concept, characters, and ending were all on point, and I was glad that I was patient enough to wait to see the movie with my sister. After leaving the theater, we couldn’t stop talking about our favorite scenes :)

Since it was still sunny and gorgeous outside, my sister and I stayed out longer to get some snacks from Trader Joe’s.

 Festive times at The Grove.
Festive times at The Grove.

It took us an hour or so to get home, but once we got back to my apartment, I made some scrambled eggs on toast for my hungry sister.

 Had to prove to my Dad that I was not starving my sister.  ;)
Had to prove to my Dad that I was not starving my sister. ;)

We stayed up until 11PM (which is unusual for me 😛 ) watching Friends and munching on snacks. It was nice to not have to worry about getting up early again the next day—especially since we had another fun-filled day planned for the 4th!!

Have you seen Inside Out?

How do you like your pizza?

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The 10 x 10 Challenge

The 10 x 10 Challenge

Starting on June 23rd, I set out to do my biggest running challenge yet (besides running my first marathon)…run 100 miles over the course of 10 days. In other words, the 10 x 10 challenge. I happened to first learn about it from other blogs, and apparently it started off as a challenge on Facebook. I thought that since I had the time (work in lab has been relatively calm compared to my crazy schedule in May!), and since I was starting to feel bored with just trying to “maintain” at 30 miles a week, I thought why not give this challenge a go?

Throughout the challenge, I learned a lot about what I could accomplish (it’s all about mindset!), some running-related tips to keep in mind for the future, and I also used it as an opportunity to try various Ben & Jerry’s ice cream flavors since I was on-the-go for ten straight days.

–◊–

Day 1 – I set my alarm for 5:30am, and didn’t wake up a minute earlier. I didn’t feel too tired, and actually felt ready to go and start this whole thing! I broke down the 10 mile goal in my mind, mentally “tricking” myself into thinking it was just a 6 mile run as usual, with an added 4 mile “cool down”. Before leaving for the run, I had some mulberries as pre-run fuel.

 Discount mulberries!
Discount mulberries!

I returned ~ 1 hr and 40 minutes later, and prepped dinner while munching on some Quest Bars as my post-run fuel. After dinner was set and cooking in the crockpot, I stopped by my apartment complex’s gym for a quick lower-body workout, and then went about my day as usual, doing my usual weekday things.

Day 2 – I woke up still feeling sleepy when my alarm buzzed at 5:30AM, but I still managed to get out the door after consuming two Quest Bars. I was able to mentally convince myself again that it would just be another 6 + 4 mile run. Once I hit the 6 mile mark, I could feel it start to warm up considerably, and I knew my hair was going to be a sweaty mess after this! Still, I was able to zone out, despite my quads getting sore around the 8-9 mile mark.

After the run, I prepped dinner and finished up my exercise-packed morning with an upper-body lifting session. In the hours that followed, I went about my day as usual, even though taking a nap didn’t seem like such a bad idea!

Since my energy levels did feel like they were taking a dip, I figured that after running 20 miles over two days made me deserving of an extra treat that would also keep me going for tomorrow’s run.

I had been eyeing the Red Velvet Cake flavor of Ben & Jerry’s—which is only in stock near me at a local pharmacy—just for this purpose.

D2 - RVC
Oh yes!

It literally tasted like a frozen slice of red velvet cake! The cake pieces were somewhat soggy, and had the consistency of rubbery marshmallows, but given that they were mixed in with ingredients that were cold and wet, this would have to be excusable 😉 .

D2 - RVC (1)
Pink ice cream :)

The cream cheese frosting swirl somehow managed to keep its texture and flavor, and the pink color of the ice cream brightly illuminated the living room (okay, a slight exaggeration, but it was enough to make my roommate notice my evening treat!)

Day 3 – I think the ice cream helped from Day 2, because I surprisingly ran at a faster pace on Day 3. After stopping by lab in the morning, I left early for a doctor’s appointment, and spent the rest of my afternoon running some errands since I had to make the trip all the way to Beverly Hills in the first place.

D3
Hangin’ in Beverly Hills

Running 10 miles in the morning + walking all over town left me with a sore left heel (the sneakers and thin socks I was wearing only exacerbated the issue), but fortunately it wasn’t debilitating enough to interrupt my challenge.

I was able to fit in another pint that night—Blondie Ambition, which I ended up finding at a grocery store closer to my apartment, even though I wasted waited almost forty minutes at a City Target closer to the doctor’s office for an employee to check if they still had any more of the flavor.

Even though the bus ride home took longer than my usual weekend trips (that forty minutes waiting around in Target cost me much more time waiting on the roads…), being able to come home and have a new pint to try after dinner was quite an incentive.

D3 - BA
Blondie Ambition

This flavor surprisingly “took the cake” (sorry Red Velvet!). The ice cream was a sweet buttercream flavor (it was certainly very smooth!), and it had blondie chunks and crunchy toffee pieces—that were able to maintain their crisp texture—strewn in. I can honestly say I was slightly melancholy when the pint was demolished.

blondieambition
Blondies and Toffee <3

Day 4 – My legs stayed sore (specifically upper/inner quads), but it was not debilitating enough to keep me from running. Once I was out the door and running, the soreness subsided, and my mood even picked up. It helped that the morning weather was overcast, but as my run progressed, I was a sticky mess once again. The last two miles were mentally challenging, but I persevered and went about my day.

I felt an incredible feeling of exhaustion around afternoon, and 3:00pm easily felt like 6:00pm. I still had to stop by the grocery store, and so in the process, picked up another pint along with my groceries. I originally was saving this one for Saturday night, but I couldn’t wait—the physical exertion and mental exhaustion from the week were just too much 😛 !

At least it wasn’t something Chunky Monkey couldn’t fix!

D4 - ChuMon
Chunky Monkey

Now, I’m far from being a banana fan, but I had to give this flavor some credit for not being overpowering, and for having just enough chocolate chunks to balance whatever banana flavor was there in the first place!

D4 - ChuMon (1)
Friday Night Pint!

As soon as I finished consuming this pint, I immediately felt my eyes start to droop. I guess it was the perfect nightcap?

D4 - ChuMon (2)
Walnuts, chocolate chunks…

Day 5 – I was not looking forward to waking up as early as I do on weekdays on a Saturday morning, despite going to bed very early on Friday night. I had a good night’s rest, but sadly, had to get up at 5:30AM yet again—the challenge was calling.

I did end up running at 6:30AM instead of 6:00AM, and definitely noticed the sudden change in temperature earlier than mid-run. I kept the run simple with several loops to total 10 miles. Mile 9 was tough on the legs, but once I got through, I felt absolutely accomplished.

At least the rest of my day was less demanding in regards to time. After stopping by the new Panera Bread in Beverly Hills for lunch, I went to a nearby Pavillions to pick up the Boston Cream Pie flavor of B&Js—as you can see, one of the perks of this challenge was having ice cream everyday 😉

D5 - BCP
Boston Cream Pie—frozen!

After leaving it in the freezer for an hour or so (the cons of long bus rides…), I dug right in, and savored the pastry cream filling and cake pieces. Seriously—how do the folks at Ben & Jerry’s do it?? True, the pastry cream filling looked more like lemon-lime Gu rather than something squeezed over a pie, but it was delicious nonetheless. And eating it while watching a complementary chick flick (Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants) on TV made the Saturday night in even more perfect.

bcp
Couldn’t wait to dig in!

Day 6 – I broke up the run into a 7 miler + 5k Race since I was running this race later in the morning. I still had to wake up bright and early, but at least I was able to look forward to a change of running scenery. I rode the train to Culver City, and from there, ran along Venice Blvd. as a 7 mile “warm-up”. My destination was Crescent Bay Park, where I participated in a 5K benefiting lymphedema research.

D6
5K Sunday!

Not only was the race for a good cause, but I also brought home an exorbitant amount of food bars! Quest Bars included! I decided to head home right after since I was itching for a shower (literally…).

Day 7 – Mondays are normally rest days from running for me, so waking up to go for a run had me feeling quite odd. I ended up running my favorite weekday 6 mile course, with a 2 mile out-and-back to get my full ten in. The run was hot and humid, and left me sweaty and sticky!

In other words, there was no point in showering the day before :/
I immediately put the A/C on back at home, prepped for dinner, completed an upper-body workout, and then headed off to work.

Once I got home, I literally did not feel like doing anything. Even washing the dishes—which I usually find relaxing—felt like such a chore.

D7
Do I have to wash the dishes??

Day 8 – The quad soreness crept back, and I could feel them for the entire run. I also woke up ravenous, and had two Quest Bars as pre-run fuel. I had planned a lower-body workout, but it was near to impossible to complete, at least as far as my quads were concerned. I ended up doing a lot of stretching during this time, which is something I don’t do as often as I should…

 Kept things simple after the day’s run with some protein-rich cottage cheese (mixed with protein powder) with a generous dollop of coconut almond butter on top.
Kept things simple after the day’s run with some protein-rich cottage cheese (mixed with protein powder) with a generous dollop of coconut almond butter on top.

Day 9 – My second-to-last day of the challenge turned out to be my most interesting one! Improper fueling in the morning led to a bloated stomach, and I had to stop running after 5 miles (heartburn, ick!). I told myself that I could finish my final 5 miles in the evening, and even though I prefer to get my workouts done in the morning, I managed to change back into my running clothes as soon as I got to the apartment.

Okay…so running for ice cream had a big deal to do with it, but I ended up running at 8:55/mi, which has been the fastest pace for me throughout this whole challenge!

d9
Karamel Sutra Core

Plus, who wouldn’t want to run for Karamel Sutra? It was the final B&J Core I had to try (at least from what’s currently available in the US!).

d9 (3)
Icicle surface, but still got a lot of creaminess left.

Another ice cream pint, another cause for roommate envy 😉

d9 (1)
CARAMEL…..

Day 10 – The final run! The weather was perfect (cloudy skies), and I wanted to make most of my run include downtown. I fueled just right (keeping note of the previous day’s mishap) and completed the run at a 9:26/mi pace. I would say it was a good note to end on.
The rest of the day was spent in lab, followed by a trip over to Union Station to pick up the sis since she was spending the 3-day weekend with me!

Three full days off from running to rest and recharge that happened to coincide when my sister was here?! I have to admit, I took into account the timing of the three-day weekend when I decided to embark on this challenge.

 Celebratory Arcitic Zero topped with almond butter and one of the free bars I got from the 5K :P
Celebratory Arcitic Zero topped with almond butter and one of the free bars I got from the 5K 😛

–◊–

Overall, the challenge went better than I expected. I was pleased to have been able to complete the distance each day for ten straight days, and I was able to prove to myself that with the right mindset and discipline in place, anything is possible. It also helps to know that, if necessary, I could run a great distance over a consecutive period of days if I had big plans coming up that prevented me from running (like traveling, hectic school schedule, etc.).

Runners: have you heard of, or completed, the 10 x 10 Challenge?

Race Recap – Run/Walk to Fight Lymphedema & Lymphatic Diseases

Race Recap – Run/Walk to Fight Lymphedema & Lymphatic Diseases

I didn’t expect things to be so slow and calm these past two weeks, but they surprisingly have been! With people gone on vacation, things have also been pretty slow and steady at work in lab. Of course I’ve been making sure to get what I need to get done each day done, but the demands have eased a bit compared to how things were last month!

And with that, racing on the weekends was a possibility again. Two weekends ago, it was a Father’s Day Half, but this past weekend, it was a 5K for a very worthy cause.

At the time I registered for the race, I knew that I would be in the middle of a running challenge (that I voluntarily got myself into…more on that in an upcoming post!), so I paid my dues knowing that I would have to allot some time on race morning to get a “warm-up” in before the actual 5K.

To account for all this, I woke up on Sunday morning around 5AM, and got my things together. I was on the train an hour later, and ran from Culver City Station all the way to Crescent Bay Park. The distance was a little over 7 miles, and certainly overqualified as a warm-up 😉

IMG_0306
Gazebo at Crescent Bay Park

I found the registration area set-up below from where I was standing, and carefully walked down the steps. I didn’t want to risk getting an ankle sprain before the actual run!

IMG_0305

Once I got down to ground level, I signed-in, grabbed my bib and goody bag, and then hung around near the refreshments. It may have been a small turn-out and a tiny 5K, relatively speaking, but the goodies spread out for the taking were beyond awesome.

Fancy water bottles...
Fancy water bottles…
Bars galore...including Quest Bars! My dream come true!
Bars galore…including Quest Bars! My dream come true!

As for the vendors at the race, they stayed consistent with the theme of the race. Since the 5K was all about Lymphedema and Lymphatic Disease awareness, many of the vendors were compression materials/medical companies specializing in lymphedema treatment.

IMG_0311

Since I came super early, I took the time to scope my surroundings, despite it only being a small area to begin with. I also snacked on a few bars while doing so.

 Finish line/Start line in the distance
Finish line/Start line in the distance

As time went on, more people showed up and started sitting down near the portable stage. Before the race began, there were speeches, testimonials, etc.

 Seating area.
Seating area.

The speeches began around 8:30AM, and were presented by speakers representing the Lymphatic Education & Research Network (LE&RN) and BSN Medical. Apparently this race was the first of its kind being held on the West Coast, and its goal was to spread awareness of lymphedema, since ~10 million Americans suffer from it. It can be genetic, a side effect of cancer treatment (due to the removal of lymph nodes), or brought upon by trauma to the lymphatic system. Whatever the cause, it is obviously a very painful, challenging disease to deal with, and the speakers kept emphasizing the fact that it is often a disease that is “hidden” by those that silently suffer from it.

We were introduced to a seven-year old boy who suffers from primary lymphedema in his left leg, and an elderly WWII veteran named Julius who had been suffering from the disease for years. Seeing what they had to go through on a daily basis—and realizing that there was no cure yet, just therapies for managing the condition—made the fact that our participation in this small 5K actually meant something.

 Listening loud and clear.
Listening loud and clear.

Kathy Bates, the national spokesperson for LE&RN, attended the pre-race ceremonies and gave a not-so-silent speech herself. She told her story—after a double mastectomy, she had lymph nodes removed and lymphedema occurred as a result. Since then, she’s been an avid supporter and fighter for lymphedema awareness.

After hearing all of the speeches, we were ushered to the starting line where a ribbon was being rolled out.

Once the ribbon was cut, a blow horn sounded and we were allowed to run! Even though it was a 5K, my legs felt dead at that point since I had already run 7 miles just an hour earlier. Despite this, I reminded myself it was “just another three miles”. The fact that it was a 1.5 mile out-and-back mentally helped push me through.

I managed to lock in and finish at an average pace of 9:23/mi, and though this wasn’t top female finisher material, I was proud of my pace on sore quads. I was also grateful for have the ability to run day in and day out, and to find the time to run for a worthy and necessary cause.

Before heading home, I grabbed enough Quest bars to last me a full week (saving me almost $30 bucks!!!), as well as some other bar goodies I had not tried before.

IMG_0317

Yup, I’d say this was a worth 5K from all angles 😉

Do you or someone you know suffer from lymphedema or lymphatic disease? *This post wasn’t sponsored, but if you are interested in learning more about LE&RN, click here.

Bread in Beverly Hills

Bread in Beverly Hills

Disclaimer: I was compensated with a gift card for this review, but all opinions (as always) are my own.

When Panera Bread first opened a location in my hometown a couple years ago, my family and I had never heard of the restaurant chain, but we were fascinated by it. I mean, a fast casual restaurant that offered high-quality soups, salads, sandwiches, pasta—and obviously, bread? It was certainly a game-changer in the restaurant scene of my suburban community, which was already flooded with too many restaurants serving that “all-American” burger and diner fare…

It’s hard to believe that they’ve been around since 1987, and already have 1,900+ bakery-cafes in almost every state in the country, as well as some locations in Canada, but I guess that shows that they’re doing all the right things to stay afloat in the ever-changing food industry.

One thing I always admired about Panera Bread was their commitment to community. I was able to see this first-hand with my hometown location, since in my high school days, I often practiced with a music group that used a local church’s kitchen space for our weekend rehearsals. We’d often see tables full of loaves of bread that were donated to the church by our local Panera Bread, and every week, they would be distributed to whoever needed them.

Since moving to LA however, I’ve paid more attention to trying out local restaurants, and places that I couldn’t find anywhere else. I didn’t consider paying a visit to restaurant chains as a “unique experience” since I thought I could visit the same restaurant in another city and the ambience, service, and food would be the same…

But I soon learned that Panera was opening up a new location in Beverly Hills—-which caught me by surprise since we all know that neighborhood has some strict polices about what it considers is worthy for its borders 😉

busy in BH

It recently opened this past Thursday, and while I missed out on the opportunity to snag a coffee tumbler or enter for a chance to win free bread for a year, I visited the new location over the weekend to see how this location stood against its competitive Beverly Hills neighbors.

entrance

This Panera Bread location was able to secure the former Beverly Hills Chamber of Commerce building as its home, and as a result, many of the building’s features were worked into the design of the restaurant. This was certainly evident when I walked in.

panera bread front

For only being open three days, everything was in full swing. I was able to easily place my order for a Soba Noodle Bowl with Edamame and a French Baguette on the side. I chose to sit in the back, where there was ample seating, dim lighting, and an exposed brick wall that brought a cozy feeling into the room.

interior__

And even though the design has kept many traditional features dating back to 1940s Beverly Hills, this location has added Panera 2.0 Enhancements, with the most prominent enhancement being the Rapid Pick-Up area.

pick-up shelf

As I was getting my water, I saw this area in action—customers waiting for their orders were able to sit across from the shelving unit, and were able to monitor the status of their order on a screen next to the shelves. I’m sure anyone who comes in hangry and desiring food ASAP would appreciate the real-time information about their order!

Fortunately, I did not come in during one of my hangry episodes. Even so, I didn’t have to wait long for my dine-in broth bowl.

edamame broth bowl

The noodle bowl was comprised of soba noodles and a medley of vegetables including spinach, napa cabbage, mushrooms, onions, fire-roasted edamame, all of which was marinating in a miso broth.

brothbowl&bread

And of course, letting the side bread roll soak up the miso broth was mandatory after finishing up the noodles and veggies!

bread with noodles yeaaaay

Overall, I found this Panera Bread location to be quite cozy and welcoming. The brick walls may play a large part in that, but the feeling of the entire restaurant was upbeat and customer-friendly. Calling the busy Beverly Dr. home will definitely be a perk for this location going forward, since the rich and famous sometimes need the comfort of familiarity, and a warm broth bowl on the occasional cloudy day.

Have you visited a Panera Bread outlet?

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Race Recap – Father’s Day Run

Race Recap – Father’s Day Run

Summer had always been a tough season for me to find races. Triathalons, no problem, but running races are a different story. So Cal races have been especially hard to pin down…that is if I just stick to the main LA area.

There are plenty more options if I look further out of the metropolitan perimeter though, and that’s how I found out about and registered for the Father’s Day Run in Van Nuys.

On race morning, I had to wake up a little after 4:00AM in order to have enough time to pack my running essentials, and to catch the earliest bus heading up north on a Sunday. Since it is summer, the sun came out pretty quickly during my journey, so I didn’t have any issues with waiting alone in the dark for too long.

The commute took almost 1 ½ hours, and by the time I got to Woodley Park (where the race was being held), the sun was taking a steady position in the sky, and things were beginning to roll. By how things appeared and felt, I knew that it was going to be a hot run.

 Heading towards the race start.
Heading towards the race start.

I was able to pick up my bib, but since it was a locally run race and very low budget, there were no free shirts. They were only being sold, which was somewhat of a disappointment. One good thing about the organization though was that even though there wasn’t a designated bag check area, the race organizers were willing to let runners leave their belongings at the registration table for the duration of the run.

 Stretching & packet pick-up before the run!
Stretching & packet pick-up before the run!

After a few static stretches, I followed some other runners down and through a pedestrian tunnel that led to a gravel path. We ended up walking ~0.3 miles to the “actual” start line, which was simply scratched on the gravel path with colorful chalk.

The turnout of people appeared to look like a large group run rather than a race, but I was glad for the change of scenery from my urban runs, and for being able to run in a new-to-me park set aside for outdoor recreation (in other words, no worries about inhaling car exhaust!).

The race included distances from 5k all the way to marathon, but I chose to run the half marathon and treated it as my long run for the week. All of the distances ended up being loops, with turnarounds at different points. For the half marathon, it was more like two loops since the first loop was ~6.5 miles, and so after crossing the “start” line the second time, it was just one more loop and then we were allowed to dash back to the registration table area where the finish line was.

 The finish line---why so dry?!
The finish line—why so dry?!

Overall, the race did not have the “vibe” of most running races, but at least with this one, you could bet that the majority of the runners who turned up for this race were serious about the sport. There were quite a few marathon runners, even though it really was just four loops around the park!

For me, the first loop was easy to tolerate when compared to the second loop. By the time the first hour of the run passed, I was trying to spot the shady areas and take cover from the bright, burning rays of the sun. I was also more than ready to guzzle down a tank of water. Fortunately, there was an aid station at the halfway point, and I was able to rehydrate myself at some point during the race :)

The race itself was small, but we were given medals, and there were some samples up for grabs.

 Free bags, and I totally dived into the strawberry carton!!
Free bags, and I totally dived into the strawberry carton!!

One cool thing was the Skinny Pasta truck parked nearby. Free low carb pasta? Don’t mind if I do!

 Low carb pasta sample with marinara sauce :3
Low carb pasta sample with marinara sauce :3

After the race, I found a large tree with plenty of shade underneath it. I rested for about an hour before heading towards the direction of the bus stop. Once my tummy began to rumble, I knew it was time for some post-race fuel! And with the heat starting to intensify, I knew I needed to get home soon and crash—a mid-afternoon nap was necessary now more than ever!

 It was another race without my best friend---Dad---but I definitely though about him that day!
It was another race without my best friend—Dad—but I definitely though about him that day!

Do you like racing in the summer, or do you take a break from running to do other summer sports?

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