OC Night Market

OC Night Market

One of the things I’ve been meaning to do since moving to LA is go to at least one 626 Night Market—basically a food truck/food stall-heavy festival featuring vendors that sell unique foodie creations.

Many of the vendors also specialize in Asian-themed food items, and finding snacks with matcha or ube is a recurring theme.

Since my sister’s now officially living in the OC, I thought it would be a good idea to attend the OC Night Market (the OC spin-off of 626 Night Market) together.

OC Night Market
OC Night Market

It was taking the place the last weekend in August, and I used it as an opportunity to head down to the OC and spend the weekend with the sis. So after popping into lab on that Saturday morning, I took the Metrolink down to Irvine, where my sister met me mid-afternoon.

From there, we stopped for a tea break before heading to the venue. The festival was being held in Costa Mesa, just like how VegFest was last year.

We had no issues getting in, except we were bothered by the fact that we had to pay for parking AND entering the night market. We were also a part of the “early” crowd, entering closer to 5pm vs. 8pm, haha!

Walking around
Walking around

Before getting to the food stalls and trucks, we passed through a hangar-like structure that sheltered several art displays and items for sale by art vendors.

Vendors.
Vendors.

Since there were many food stalls to check out, we walked around the perimeter before deciding what to get. Our first choices were both savory, and could thwart any salt craving.

My sister picked up a jalapeno grilled cheese, with cream cheese.

Yum, grilled cheese!
Yum, grilled cheese!

I, on the other hand, was quite intrigued by the potato swirl. I noticed so many other patrons carrying the carb-wrapped stick, and then after devouring the edible portion, waving the stick around like a spear. My sis and I had to dart around these absent-minded potato consumers if we wanted to live,  haha!

Not afraid to stab you with dis carb.
Not afraid to stab you with dis carb.

I got my potato swirl seasoned with cajun, and could immediately see why it was so popular with the crowd. The potato discs were fun to peel, and there was just enough seasoning that no extra sauce was needed.

After some more walking around, and glancing at some of the art displays, we made a second round for dessert. I spotted the Blue Nova truck, and immediately noticed their Thai ice cream roll menu.

Blue Nova Truck
Blue Nova Truck

The line didn’t seem too long, but then again, I didn’t know how long it would take to make a spectacular-looking cup of Thai ice cream rolls.

I chose to get the Spectacular Speculoos flavor, and spent the next twenty minutes hovering near the side of the truck waiting for my ticket number to be called.

Was it worth the wait? According to appearances…maybe:

YUM!
YUM!

According to taste? Not too bad! The ice cream itself was bland and didn’t carry a lot of flavor (it was supposedly speculoos-flavored, but at least it was dusted with cinnamon, topped with mochi, and held two Biscoff cookies and a marshmallow I passed on because of gelatin).

Since we arrived early, we still had a ton of time to kill if we were planning on staying till 10pm. The entertainment acts weren’t even starting until 7, and it was barely 6 when we completed our two rounds of the venue!

We decided that we would probably have more fun back at my sister’s place—she suggested that we get some cupcakes-in-a-jar and savor them while watching the sun set. I couldn’t think of a more perfect idea!

Baked Dessert Bar
Baked Dessert Bar

Baked Dessert Bar had a wonderful assortment to choose from, and I chose the Cookie Monster while my sis chose the most chocolate-on-chocolate flavor she could find. Once we got back to her place in Mission Viejo, we settled ourselves in some seats in the backyard and watched the sun set in all its glory.

Mission Viejo Sunset
Mission Viejo Sunset

The cupcakes were not bad either—the cake wasn’t too dry, but of course I was a fan of the frosting, and the frosting-to-cake ratio was perfect.

My sis and I spent the rest of the evening chatting and laughing, and eventually we went inside to get some shut eye since she would be driving me back to LA the next morning.

Before heading back in the morning, I went out for a mid-distance run while my sis promised to make a quick breakfast for both of us. I was so awestruck by the beauty of Mission Viejo that I forgot that the beauty I was witnessing was 90% hills. Which meant my run was ready to kill me.

I survived, but not without feeling it in my calves. At least my sister’s scrambled eggs came to my grumbling stomach’s rescue.

We did stop for coffee, and then headed to my campus to take care of a number of things in lab. I had to stay overnight that night due to the next day being a time-sensitive experiment day, so having my sister help with preparations and other routine tasks was something I was grateful for!

We worked for four solid hours non-stop, and were hungry enough by the end of it to immediately head out for lunch. Burgers and fries sounded perfect, and after mentioning Shake Shack to the sis, we made a direct drive to the Century City location.

Century City Shake Shack
Century City Shake Shack

It was the first time trying SS out for the both of us, and our default vegetarian option for a burger was the Shroom Burger. We had no complaints though, since the mushroom patty was supposedly stuffed with warm cheese.

For my side, I got the cheese fries while my sis got a chocolate shake. We found seating outside, and didn’t have to wait too long for our food to arrive.

SHAKE SHACK ORDER!
SHAKE SHACK ORDER!

And everything tasted as good as it looked. The patty was crisp, bread buns soft, enough cheese to coat each fry…I was definitely forlorn when I finished my meal. It made me second guess the size of my fry order, haha!

Yum meal!
Yum meal!

My sis drove me back to campus so I could get ready for my overnight stay, while she headed back to Mission Viejo. Even though I was back to work hours before the rest of my collegues would be, at least I was happy with how well I spent the weekend!
 

Race Recap – 31st Skechers Performance LA Marathon

Race Recap – 31st Skechers Performance LA Marathon

On February 14, 2016, I ran my second marathon.

Caught at the right moment
Caught at the right moment

It has been less than a year since I ran my first marathon, and SO many things have happened since then. Even with all that has transpired, I am grateful that I was even able to run this insane distance once again!

My day began at 3am on Valentine’s Day. Once I stuffed all of my race day essentials into my gear check bag, I was off with my carpool crew. After picking up a few more people, we drove off to Santa Monica to park the car and load the shuttle buses to Dodger’s Stadium.

As we sat on the bus, some of my marathon teammates came up with running pick-up lines since it was Valentine’s Day. One guy had us all laughing with “I may be running 26.2, but I want 26.YOU”. It was definitely a light-hearted ride to the the starting line that would otherwise be an anxiety-ridden one!

Everyone in front of me was all quiet and thinking to themselves...everyone behind me was all laughs!
Everyone in front of me was all quiet and thinking to themselves…everyone behind me was all laughs!

Once we got to Dodger’s Stadium, we had about a half an hour to check in our bags and ready ourselves. We didn’t have time for a all-member team pic, so I immediately got into my assigned corral.

After the wheelchair runners and elite women, the elite men and the rest of us were off! I was feeling anxious about my right foot, but once things got moving I didn’t feel much in terms of pain.

The course was pretty much identical to last year’s, and I was able to keep a 9:30-10:00 pace for the first several miles. I was carrying my handheld water bottle as well, so I didn’t feel the need to stop for water until after mile 6 or so.

It was relatively easy for me to zone out all the way through Chinatown, Downtown, Echo Park, Silverlake, Hollywood…all the way through Beverly Hills even! As expected, I felt myself slow down in pace as we reached Century City and Westwood. We thankfully did not have to climb that tortous hill near the VA like last year, but miles 22 and onward only made me feel slower and wishing I didn’t have 4.2 miles left.

I refueled with the same gummies and shot bloks as last year, but didn’t start chewing until ~mile 11-13. I went through all of my chewables by mile 22, hoping I would be able to snag a packet from a spectator like last year.

Unfortunately, no one was handing out unwrapped shot bloks past mile 22, but I found myself immensely hungry at mile 23! Two pieces of licorice happened to do the trick surprisingly.

Unlike the 90+F degree weather of last year, we were greeted with fog once we hit Brentwood. As we ran downhill on San Vicente, we could feel the cool, misty ocean as we approached the finish.

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Everyone looks so sad!

Making it to the finish line this year was not as grueling, but once I hit the stop button on my Garmin at 26.4 miles and slowed to a walk, I began to feel the achiness of my hip and foot tendons.

Just keep walking and standing...
Just keep walking and standing…

After grabbing some post-race snacks, a heat sheet, and my medal, I proceeded to the bag check trucks. Bag check was horribly organized this year, since I found all of the bags tossed on the ground.

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Dude, where’s my bag?

Honestly, anybody could have just grabbed a bag and left! There was also no organization such as alphabetizing the bags, so it took me a good fifteen minutes just to find my bag.

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No man! Don’t sit!

Once that was all done, I proceeded to find my teammates. Everyone who had completed the distance was sitting cross-legged with their heat sheets drapped over their shoulders, munching on mini Clif bars or animal crackers. I continued to stand because if I had sat, it would have been PAINFUL to get up!!

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Race patrol keeping the roads clear!

I was there for another hour and a half until everyone from my car was back. We hobbled back to the parking lot around 2pm, and got back into the city an hour later (just like last year).

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Someone got one of my teammates roses…oooooohooohooo

I actually had to go into lab that afternoon (!!) and so I took my sweet time with that. I normally stand for one particular experiment I have to do but on this day, I had to find a seat because my legs were begging me, haha!

I also reflected on my experience, my capabilities, and my newfound strength on Instagram, leaving this picture with a caption about how I ran this race in a much healthier state than probably any other race I have run before!

♥♥♥
♥♥♥

I’ve been thinking a lot about where I want to go with this running thing, and getting faster is one of my top goals. My time was slower by six minutes this year, but that can be due to so many factors. I am just so incredibly grateful that I was even able to run this race, and I hope that there will be many more marathons in my future, reminding me that all is possible when you work with and trust your body.

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Two sides to THIS medal!!

Have you ever run a marathon? Would you want to?

Race Recap: 30th ASICS LA Marathon

Race Recap: 30th ASICS LA Marathon

Ever since Sunday, I’ve been in ultimate bliss. Is that normal though? After all, I did subject myself to non-stop running for 4+ hours.

But yeah, I’d say it was a life-changing experience. No regrets here.

 The light at the end of the tunnel: sights seen after my marathon.
The light at the end of the tunnel: sights seen after my marathon.

The countdown to the race began the day before, since I had to make it to the expo at the LA Convention Center to grab by race packet and bib. Since the expo opened at 9am that morning, I wanted to get there as early as possible, and walked to the convention center from my apartment an hour earlier to account for waiting time, etc. 

I came in through a different entrance, and so even though I saw the “Welcome Runners” sign from a distance…

enteringtheexpo

…I was redirected to line up outside through another entrance.

waitinginline

Even though the line looked incredibly long and made me wish I had come even earlier (or perhaps the day before…), the line started to move quickly once the doors “officially” opened at 9am.

Expo business went about as usual: I got my bib, race shirt, and made my way through the Asics pop-up shop in order to get to the actual vendor booths (and free samples!).

checkingoutexpo

I wasn’t able to find much in terms of take-home samples, but I did stop to write a note on the “memory wall”, check out the course route printed on another wall, and find my name mixed with other runners’ names on yet another wall…

la_marathon_expo

From the freebies I did manage to collect, I was able to grab some Nuun tablets, a free Megabus shirt, and some Larabar minis. The Clif bar tent had plenty of sample stations set up, but since they weren’t actually giving out packaged bars from what I could tell (just cut-up bars on toothpicks), I didn’t think it was worth standing in line. Plus, since the next day was obviously booked for me, I had to leave early in order to make sure I had enough time to get my domestic errands done (grocery shopping—ahh!).

After leaving the expo, the rest of the day was spent grocery shopping/taking public transit (because that sucks up a lot of time), and so I literally did not get home until 5pm. I was slightly concerned since I was out on my feet all day, doing plenty of walking under the hot sun, but I went ahead and quickly made a light dinner before resting up on the couch.

Around 8pm, I slowly began to gather my race day essentials, and got into bed at 8:30pm since my ride was picking me up at 3:15am. The plan was to park and catch the shuttle from Santa Monica to the starting line at Dodger’s Stadium.

On race day morning, I woke up before my alarm could ring at 2:45am, quickly got dressed, and dashed out of my apartment to meet my ride downstairs. I was carpooling with two members of the team I was training with, and because of it was early morning on a Sunday, we had no traffic to fight.

We arrived and parked in Santa Monica a little after 3:30am, and had to walk over to where the shuttles were parked. A fellow runner was walking near us and commented that we wouldn’t need to warm-up before the race due to all the walking we already had to do!

Once we got on the shuttle, it was 4:00am. I began fueling with two Quest bars, and soon we were dropped off in front of Dodger’s Stadium.

SAMSUNG

Since we had “lost” one of our carpoolers on another shuttle, my other carpool buddy and I waited outside for him. In the meantime, we collected some freebies (water bottle, Clif bar minis, Clif shot bloks (!!!) ), which I stashed for later.

After finding our teammate, we walked inside the stadium to see if we could find the rest of our teammates. We didn’t really have a designated meeting spot, but since we had team shirts, we assumed we’d be able to find “our people” as they walked in.

beforetherace

I continued to hydrate and fuel with two mini Larabars, and a mini Clif bar. More of our teammates arrived, and we found an area on the floor to sit and occupy so as not to tire our legs.

SAMSUNG

Photographers came around and took our pictures. At one point, a man without a bib approached me and asked if I had an extra bib, which I found to be a strange thing to ask. But when he explained that he had arrived at the expo too late, and that the race organizers wouldn’t give him his bib since the expo was closing, I could understand his frustration and distress. Still, I didn’t just happen to have an extra bib lying around…

As time ticked closer to 6:00am, more and more of my teammates arrived, and soon we had enough members for a group picture. After getting our stuff checked in at bag check and using the porta-potties, our group shuffled with thousands of other runners to the starting line. A lot of us were first-time marathoners, so we didn’t have previous marathon times that would allow us to line up in Corrals A-E. Even though there was this separation between runners, I’m glad that I was still able to start with a group of familiar faces.

We gave eachother some last minute hugs and cheers, and soon we were off! I was able to run with two of my teammates (fellow ladies that “struggled” with me on a 13 mi LSD back in January) for the first mile, but they stopped to use a porta-potty after Mile 1, so from that point on, I was on my own for a while.

The course led us through Chinatown, DTLA, and Little Tokyo for the first couple miles. In all honesty, the first 10k breezed by like the cool breeze and overcast skies that blanketed over us runners (<— at least the weather was like this for the first quarter of the race…). There were plenty of distractions early on in the race too—everything from people preaching about the bible over megaphones, to taiko drums, to chili dogs being served by locals at the 5 mile mark!

Miles 7-13 didn’t fly by as quickly, but did pass by at a steady enough rate. I was still feeling pretty good, making sure to keep hydrated with my handheld water bottle. I also ran through misting machines, and dumped cups of water over my head at every chance I could get.

We passed through Echo Park and Silver Lake during these miles, and approached Hollywood and Vine at around Mile 11, where I began to start mid-run fueling with some fruit gummies I purchased the day before from Sprouts. I fueled with the same bag of gummies periodically between Miles 11-15, as things started to heat up at Mile 15.

In Beverly Hills, a spectator had a sign that said “Even Pretty Woman cried on Rodeo Dr.“, and this spectator was standing right as we turned the corner at Rodeo Dr.! It was fun being able to run past designer stores, but since the sun was starting to rise higher, the heat was beginning to set in. Fortunately, ice was starting to be provided at aid stations, so I grabbed a handful and stuffed some cubes in my mouth. I looked like a chipmunk at least up until Mile 16!

People I spoke to in the past said Century City is one of the most boring/hard-to-get-through areas, but there was a decent-sized crowd there this time around. Miles 20-22 near the VA/Westwood were incredibly tough on the other hand. My legs started to feel extremely sore, and people all around me were slowing down to a light jog, or to a pained walk. It was also the “driest” part of the race, since there were no water stations in sight, nor were there any misting machines.

I still didn’t want to stop the momentum, so I trucked on in light jogger mode, even though it felt like I was exerting so much energy just to move one step. At one point, I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to run the last few miles of the race!

Fortunately, volunteers and spectators made their presence again once I got into Mile 22. Some were even holding out full packages of Clif shot bloks, which I grabbed from one of the volunteers with much gratitude. Since I wanted to finish the race running, I stuffed all six bloks just before Mile 23 to see if that would do the trick and bring me back up to speed.

And it just so happened that it worked! I felt my speed pick back up, and found a fellow teammate in the distance walking through a water station around Mile 24. When she saw me, she said “Ready? Let’s finish this,” and we began to match ourselves in stride and accelerate our pace. We were one and strong for the next two-ish miles. I even had enough energy to flash a smile at one of the race photographers in the middle of the road, just before we turned on Ocean Ave.

Mile 26 was the defining moment. I thought we would make it across the finish line together, but my teammate stopped to walk and encouraged me to keep going. It was the hottest stretch of the race since the sun was beating down with no mercy…and there was no ocean breeze whatsoever!

But I made it. And according to Mr. Garmin, I have a new long distance PR and marathon time of 4:36:56. The finisher’s area felt like such a long stretch, and I actually was walking for quite some time before being offered a medal. Then I was offered a heat sheet, cold + wet towels, water, snacks, and a finisher’s photo.

 Crowds in Santa Monica, after the race.
Crowds in Santa Monica, after the race.

I met some of my other teammates in the family reunion area off to one side of the finisher’s walk. We hugged and congratulated each other, commiserated about Miles 20-22, and commented about what a phenomenal experience this all was. A few of my teammates commented on how I didn’t even look tired, and found it humorous when I replied saying I felt “sorta sore”.

I sat with my team, and hugged/congratulated my other teammates as they joined our group with smiles on their faces. We sat around and chilled until 1pm, which was when we had enough people to carpool with back home.

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The traffic in Santa Monica was INSANE. We got to the car around 2pm, but didn’t even get on the highway until 3pm! By the time I got home, it was almost 4pm!! It was frustrating to have to push my marathon lunch plans forward as dinner plans, but I wasn’t going to let that bring me down from the happiness and accomplishment I gained from the glorious morning I had. Plus, I did get to celebrate with a superb veggie burger and exotic-flavored ice cream (more on that later 😉 ), so I’m not complaining!

I’m so happy that I made the decision to run 26.2 at this point in my life. The experience gave me the challenge I needed to take my long distance running and endurance to the next level, to treat my body with more respect in terms of fuel and strength, and it’s even made me more confident. I met a lot of great people by training with a team, and I couldn’t be more grateful for the support of my family and friends.

My Dad was glued to his computer, tracking me online. When I finished the race and checked my phone, there were about six messages from him with encouraging words as I progressed along the course at different times. Reading those messages made me feel so elated and loved, even though he was not physically there to give me bear hug at the end of the race (and to help me pick up some extra post-race freebies 😉 ).

first_marathon_love

My marathon withdrawls are not as strong as I thought they’d be, but I am taking it easy with the running for this week. My current plans are to continue as though I’m training for a marathon, making sure I maintain the endurance I’ve built up with those 13-20 mi LSD runs, but I think my current goal will be to work on a new half PR (sub 2:00 please!!). Next on the agenda, find some races…

Would you ever run a marathon?

How did you feel when you crossed the finish line of your first marathon?

After 22 Miles

After 22 Miles

I honestly do not know what would have gotten me through the last two grueling miles of my 22 mile long run if it was not the thought of rewarding myself with a cupcake sundae from Sprinkles hours after the run. I fortunately was able to power through, and see the light cupcake at the end of the tunnel. 

Of course, by the time we finished the run, it was already nearing noon. After assembling back into cars and returning back to our team’s carpool meeting spot, I hobbled home and got ready to celebrate my longest run of the training season! I felt like chowing down on something chock-full of carbs, cheese, and lots of guac—NACHOS!

And even though it took forever and a day to reach Century City via bus, I made it, and was greeted by Chinese lanterns at the steps.

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I was surprised at my ability to not be out of breath/feel pain in my legs after climbing up the stairs, and once I was on level ground, I tried to navigate around the pink walls of Pink Taco and find the entrance.

pinktaco_centurycityentrance

I ended up entering through the back entrance, but one of the servers pointed me towards the front of the restaurant so I could ask for a table.

inside_pt_cc

The restaurant was quite spacious, with a floor upstairs as well. I was given a booth seat right across from the bar.

downstairs&upstairs_pt_cc

As soon as I sat down, a waiter came by with a basket of chips and salsa, while a female server came by to get my “drink” order (um, just water please 😛 ). She also kept ending her sentences/questions with “babe”, which got old right after she said it the first time, haha.

chips!

Since my plan was to attack a plate of nachos, I ordered the vegetarian version of their nachos plate, with black beans. And it seriously came out in ten minutes flat. Yeah, it was 3pm on a Sunday, and the restaurant was pretty barren, but still! Not complaining though 😀

pinktacoveggienachoswithblackbeans

Even though I didn’t feel super hungry, I managed to wipe the plate clean. I asked for the check soon after, so I could have some time to walk back over to Beverly Hills and get me some ice cream!!

It started to rain by the time I started walking, but it was one of those days I happened to have an umbrella tucked away in my handbag, so I was in luck! Google Maps wasn’t loading in my favor though, so I ended up circling the area where Sprinkles Ice Cream, and at one point I was walking in the opposite direction. But I eventually found my way around after seeing some familiar visual cues, since I was in the area before when I paid Ice Cream Lab a visit. 

the menu's on the wall

The menu for different ice cream combinations was on the wall, along with cupcake flavors that could be mixed and matched to make the perfect cupcake sundae. There was also an ice cream sandwich and just plain ice cream on a cone option.

 The script is a recipe for ice cream written by Thomas Jefferson!
The script is a recipe for ice cream written by Thomas Jefferson!

I had to wait in line for longer than planned, but I eventually found my way to the center and put in my order for what I think was the perfect cupcake sundae combo (at least for the first time around…)

redvelvetcone!

Sprinkles’ signature red velvet cupcake stuffed with cap’n crunch ice cream—how can you go wrong?

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All I can say is frosting + ice cream = how come there isn’t a product or dessert made like this much more often?!

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I had to enjoy this beauty inside since it was beginning to pour harder outside, but I still had to trek on towards the nearest bus stop to get home.

Even though I feasted well, by the time I reached home, I started to feel serious stomach pains. I ended up vomiting, and I think it was due to reasons I explained in this MTR post. Thankfully it was a one-time thing, and most likely running-induced, but for a while there, I almost couldn’t think about nachos or cupcakes without feeling nauseated. I’m glad that’s over!

Pink Taco on Urbanspoon Sprinkles Ice Cream on Urbanspoon

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