My weekend trip to Vegas was planned on a whim, mostly due to the fact my bestie from Nor Cal moved there recently. BlogFest was also occurring the weekend I planned to visit, and there wasn’t any time-sensitive experiment holding me back in lab, so everything seemed to work out in my favor.
I worked some long days earlier in the week (including a 12hr stint the day before I left), but once Thursday arrived I was ready to for the desert country.
My MegaBus wasn’t leaving LA until 12:45, so I took it easy in the morning. I decided to take the weekend off from running since I knew the 90-110 temperatures in the Vegas heat would be unbearable to run in. After getting some coffee, I packed up the remainder of my stuff at home and then made my way to Union Station.
It was pretty hot in LA as well, so I was antsy until the bus came and we could finally sit down in an A/C regulated area. The bus ride was pretty uneventful, but I was able to fall in and out of sleep pretty easily. My body had been wanting to catch up I suppose!
I arrived in LA around 6, and my friend had just gotten off work so she was able to swing by and pick me up. I was expecting myself to experience a weather shock but the 105 degree temperature difference felt insane. She also looked pretty exhausted, so finding some place to eat for dinner was an immediate priority.
I had been wanting to check out The Protein House ever since it was featured on the Food Network in one of those undercover, we-fix-your-restaurant shows.
Many years later, I was standing in one of their locations with my friend, deciding which plant-based protein entree to get and a smoothie to complement it.
I ended up getting their Plant Power Bowl and the Chocolate PB Crush crush shake while my friend got a Spicy Thai Chicken Wrap and a Peanut Butter Dream smoothie. With her purchase, she was able to score a free shaker cup—something she said she probably will not use, haha.
Our food came out relatively quickly, and while our smoothies were flavorful and thick, both of our entrees were pretty dry. A little mix of some sauce and everything would have been dandy…
My friend was still pretty tired after we ate, so we just walked around the Town Square shopping mall a few miles off the strip since she works there. We spent an hour or so walking through Sephora and some of the other boutiques. Around 9pm, she dropped me off at my AirBnB which…was quite an experience.
The listing forgot to mention a few things…like the apartments were in a semi-sketch area (doubt that anyone would say that but…), the private room I was renting was opposite another private room housing two male guests and that there was a shared bathroom for both rooms, and that some rando would be sleeping on a pull-out couch in the living room my entire stay without a shirt on. Welcome to Las Vegas 👌🏽
But my room was clean and everything else seemed okay. It was a weird situation, but I could tolerate it for the weekend.
The next day was the second day of BlogFest and since my friend had to work all day, I spent most of the day at the convention center. I woke up at the crack of dawn, and was ready by 7:30. I decided to walk over, and despite the weirdness of the surrounding area, it was a safe walk over. Even though it was early in the morning, it was already hitting the 90s, and I couldn’t avoid sweating despite my attempts at walking slowly and under shade patches.
I was able to make it to the day’s earliest event which was the networking breakfast with a yogurt bar sponsored by Bell Institute.
I made sure to get a bowl of Good Culture cottage cheese topped with berries and a large mug of hot coffee with creamer.
I stayed for the keynote speech and the morning sessions, and around noon stopped by the expo to, ya know…pick up as many freebies as I can!
I grabbed enough protein bars, protein powders, kale chips, and other random items to fill one large reusable bag and my backpack. I was (mentally) tired to stay any longer, so I made the decision to walk back to my room in the 105 degree heat around 3:30pm. I wanted to rip off my skin and dunk my organs in an ice bath by the time I got back, but I survived. Opening the door and finding a half naked guy sleeping on a pull-out bed in the living room was awkward, but I retreated to my room and counted the hours until I could hang out with my bestie the next day…
Have you ever had an awkward hotel/lodging experience?
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.
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.
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 😉 .
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
As soon as I finished consuming this pint, I immediately felt my eyes start to droop. I guess it was the perfect nightcap?
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 😉
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.
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.
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.
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…
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!
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!).
Another ice cream pint, another cause for roommate envy 😉
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.
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?
A while back, I made-up and took a “Nerdy Girl Survey” in which I answered a simple question: What is your favorite protein?
I gave a ‘nerdy’ answer, followed by a ‘foodie’ answer (any seitan fanatics out there 🙂 ?), but recently, I’ve been more focused on adding more protein and fat to my diet in order to meet my current fitness goals. I thought I would share a couple of my protein-fortified eats from the past few weeks in honor of the macronutrient I am trying to make more prevalent in my life (not to sound overly dramatic, at all 😉 ).
Tried and True
Peanut butter is a no-brainer when it comes down to identifying a good protein and fat-rich food source. I’ve always paired it with a carb-based vehicle (like bread) or yogurt, so it was no surprise that I used it to coat these protein-fortified, oatmeal-based Thomas english muffins.
A good dollop goes a long way, and it added an additional 9 grams of protein to the 15 grams of protein already in this Voskos blueberry yogurt. This yogurt+PB combo was eaten about two hours before my challenging 13 miler this past Sunday…
Cottage cheese is one of those foods that I always have to take a break from once in a while, but when I do happen to have it in my fridge, my craving for it is at an all-time high. I love how it can work as a great binding agent in baking, and can work in both savory and sweet combinations. But pairing it with some organic peanut butter—just like how I do with my greek yogurts—is the classic way to go. This was my bedtime snack for four consecutive nights…
As a vegetarian, I never take soy “meat” or tofu for granted as a vital protein source. At no time did I ever feel left out of the meat-eating experience of my carnivore friends because I felt that the alternate option was good enough for me! The soy meat industry has definitely evolved for the better over the years in regards to product offering, but sometimes it’s best to stick to the classics. For some crockpot dinners several nights ago, I cut up my veggies as usual, but threw in some chopped Tofurky hot dog links. With 10 grams of protein per link, it was easy to balance out my complex carbs and protein ratio in one simple-but-filling meal.
To have more fun with the “protein hunting” process, I wanted to try and incorporate foods I never really got ahold of in the past due to fear/cost/just not thinking of them at the time.
There used to be a time where I shunned both avocados and egg yolks because of their high fat content. I’m glad I’m no longer that naïve or fearful of this important macronutrient—otherwise I would have continued to miss out on this nutrient-rich snack of mashed avocados and harboiled eggs. Mixed with some garlic herb seasoning and apple cider vinegar, this snack was exactly what I needed to replenish my muscles after a morning of lifting.
Avocados may not be as protein-rich as eggs, but when paired together, the total nutritional profile just can’t be beat!
Paleo bread from Julian’s Bakery is a pricey find, but worth it in my opinion. When comparing the coconut and plain flavors, I found myself to be a fan of the coconut flavor…but when I surrendered $10.99 to the cashier at Whole Foods for the almond flavor loaf one weekend, I think I changed sides.
The slices had the perfect amount of moisture, sweetness, and when topped with slices of goat cheese gouda, made for another winning protein-rich snack!
But I was too quick in my decision to try the cinnamon flavor though—in my opinion, the slices were rough, dry, and lacked cinnamon, let alone any flavor at all.
Even with peanut butter, these slices were subpar. Perhaps now that I restocked my fridge with some havarti, I should see if this loaf has similar potential to that of the almond flavor…
The priciest, but easiest, way to pack in daily protein is definitely through some sort of protein powder. With the different options nowadays—and expensive costs—it can be intimidating to choose where to even start. I realized that since I was getting a lot of my protein from dairy and soy, it may be in my best interest to get a protein powder from a different protein source like plants. I narrowed down my choices, and after a visit to Vitamin Shoppe (while picking up my weekly box of Quest bars 😉 ), I decided to give the PlantFusion Cookies N Cream flavor a go (it also helped that I had a $25 award certificate from all the points I racked up in 2014 due to all of my Quest bar purchases 😛 ).
A 30 gram serving packs in 21 grams of protein from pea, artichoke, amaranth, and quinoa. Mixed with a 1/2 cup of milk, I made a hybrid shake/pudding and paired it with two Quest bars one afternoon as a reward for myself after a busy morning in lab.
It was a protein-rich take on cookies and milk, if you will…
My fitness goals for my personal well-being and marathon training have directed me towards placing an emphasis on the protein and fat in my daily intake, and it has given me the opportunity to try new products and experiment with different combinations and sources. It’s been less than a month since making this transition, but I’m looking forward to discovering new ways and products that embody ‘protein love’.