January Sunshine

January Sunshine

This past weekend turned out to be better than I expected. I didn’t have a slew of things I was planning to do to begin with, but despite just checking off mundane errands and staying close to home due to lab responsibilities, it was a pretty pleasant Saturday and Sunday.

My shins have slowly been cooperating, as I have been trying to ease back into my normal mileage while giving them recovery time between days I do running workouts. That meant doing cross-training every other day last week, and while I hate feeling like a hamster at the gym, I gritted my teeth and got through it. I also managed to get some strength training in.

When my sister was here the weekend prior, I was able to snag a bunch of great clearance deals at Sprouts, including $3 jars of soybean spread, $6 protein bar boxes, and limited edition RX bars for $0.50 a pop!

It’s funny how last year around this time, seeking out new RX bar flavors was one of the things that kept me sane when I was preparing for quals. Now, these bars aren’t really my jam anymore…

RX Bar - Iced Gingerbread
RX Bar – Iced Gingerbread

And despite everyone one the ‘gram raving about this flavor, I couldn’t get on board with the dry texture. The cinnamon and ginger spice pretty much made this a a dense slab of fruit cake. Eh, not too appetizing. But it was $0.50, so not too much of a loss πŸ˜‰

My Saturday morning consisted of a short, easy run to get my blood flowing for the next day’s team long run. I eventually made my way to lab, but was too tired/hungry to venture out too far for something to eat. Despite it being early January, the sun was out and bright as ever, meaning the smoothie/juice/acai bowl craving I had was absolutely justified.

Sunlife Organics, USC Village
Sunlife Organics, USC Village

It was my first time trying Sunlife Organics. I first came across the name two Labor Day weekends ago when I made a day trip to Malibu. The one I visited in the relatively new USC Village definitely had that pretentious LA juice shop vibe, but I let it slide.

Juice shop vibes
Juice shop vibes

When it comes to visiting “chain” restaurants or restaurants with more than one location, I like to try whatever is special to that location or seasonal specials so I feel like I have a reason for going to a location that is farther out than where I need to go.

So I got the "Trojan Bowl".
So I got the “Trojan Bowl”.

So I got the Trojan Bowl, which was a coconut butter/hemp milk/whey protein/banana/mango blend base topped with granola, strawberry, peanut butter, goji berries and bee pollen. Being the nut butter fan that I am, I was enamored by the PB and goji berries alone. 

<3
β™₯β™₯β™₯β™₯β™₯

I ate this while people-watching and soaking in some of the sun’s rays. There were plenty of student’s already studying in the vast courtyard (the semester started about a week ago), and looking at their stressed facial expressions made me so relieved that I was no longer in that boat, haha!

♦

 

I was slightly nervous going into Sunday since it was my first team long run in a while (since I took time off for my shin splints). I stretched as much as I could and hoped for the best. We had originally planned to drive to Pasadena for our notorious 12 miler that everyone gets lost from, but due to lack of cars, we opted for a run close to downtown LA.

To my pleasant surprise, I was able to run pain-free with my teammates! I felt pretty good for about 75% of the run, and the last 2-3 miles felt tougher than usual, but I think it’s due to the lack of consistent running over the past few weeks. I’m hoping my endurance comes back at a roaring pace, but I’m also trying to be cautious and take things at a pace comfortable for my shin recovery.

After the run, I spent the morning catching up on some work, but I made sure to get some time in to get lunch in downtown. For some reason that day, I felt like walking down those DTLA streets I’m so fond of…

Panini Kabob Grill, DTLA
Panini Kabob Grill, DTLA

I used to pass by Panini Kabob Grill all the time when I lived near DTLA and was walking between the Pico and 7th Street Metro stations. The patio seating was always full, but I got myself a seat this time around.

A seat where I was able to appreciate some views.
A seat where I was able to appreciate some views.

Their menu selections includes plenty of veggie-friendly items, and as soon as I saw the charbroiled organic tofu kabob platter, my mind was made up.

tofu-kabob

I was expecting thick blocks of baked tofu to be skewered with grilled veggies, but my plate came to me skewer-less. But there were bright orange soft squares of tofu, plenty of grilled veggies, a side salad with avocado, a lil cup of hummus (def. not enough for the food that was there to dip it in), and fluffy bulgar pilaf.

c
Charbroiled Tofu Kabob

Even though the tofu looked worthy based on its color, it was quite bland and lacked flavor. The salad was doused in a dressing with too much vinegar in my opinion, and the bulgar pilaf also lacked flavor. I will admit that the portions did make for quite a filling meal.

I felt like walking a couple blocks after my meal, and definitely felt the effects of the sunshine. I was feeling warm under the sun, but certainly very happy. It was one of those perfect, “winter” LA days.

How is the weather currently where you live?

Running Break

Running Break

Last weekend, I was feeling a little anxious and glum about having to hold off on running for a week or two due to shin splints. I was trying to figure out what I could do for cross-training, and also realized that some strength training would have to be squeezed in too, even though I haven’t done any focused weight training in months

I contemplated all of this over lunch this past Saturday at Grilliant. I had to stop in lab earlier that day, and by the time I was done, I didn’t feel like venturing out too far just for lunch. #DecemberFeels

Grilliant, Culver City
Grilliant, Culver City

I had been wanting to check out Grilliant for a while now though. I mean, it boasted Mediterranean cuisine as the theme of its menu, so how could I resist?

Portabello Wrap with Eggplant Mirza
Portabello Wrap with Eggplant Mirza

I wound up getting a portabello (veggie) flatbread wrap with some eggplant mirza on the side (it was the closest thing to babaganoush, so that’s why I went for it). An unexpected serving of tzatziki and a sweet & lemony tomato sauce side came along with it. 

Up close!
Up close!

I thought the portabello pieces were slightly overcooked, but everything together made for a well-balanced and nourishing meal. 

I also stopped at Sprouts before heading home, and picked up a seasonal almond butter flavor that was much cheaper than the chocolate peanut butter I usually get, haha!

Sprouts Gingerbread Spice Almond Butter
Sprouts Gingerbread Spice Almond Butter

It definitely had a spicy kick to it, but the oil-to-almond butter ratio was pretty proportionate. It was only when I got to the bottom 0.5 inch of the jar did it start to get grainy.

On Tuesday, I woke up early enough to set aside ~2 hours to go on a 6 mile walk for active recovery. Since I’m always complaining about how Abbot Kinney is so hard to get to via public transit, I designed my walking route to include a stop at Blue Bottle Coffee at my turn-around point.

Blue Bottle Coffee
Blue Bottle Coffee

Upon entering, I could definitely sense the pretentious coffee shop vibe. The baristas were nice and helped me to pick out what they thought was a good hot coffee blend, but I felt slightly out of place even though I was wearing my stretchy Nike running capris like most athletic wear, clothing-wearing Los Angelenos, haha.

Walking back.
Walking back.

I got the “Three Africas” coffee as per their recommendation, which was described as a blend of “the radiant fruit of two coffees from Ethiopia, one washed and one natural, with the balance and authority of a washed coffee from Uganda“. I wasn’t a fan though…even after adding some cream and brown sugar, the lemon zest was slightly off-putting.

At least I had a crispy, double chocolate cookie with a hint of ginger as a back-up treat?

Yum, breakfast cookie!
Yum, breakfast cookie!

The walk was earlier in the week, so I still felt some soreness in my shins. I do think they are getting better though, at least I hope so. Since then, I’ve been cross-training with the eliptical and doing some light weight training for muscle groups I often neglect when plain running. I never thought I’d find the monotony of a still gym a refreshing break from running, and despite feeling DOMS in every muscle group except my calves right now, I found that being in the gym may be what just I needed for my mental sanity too!

Do you find it difficult to cross-train for a sport/exercise activity you predominantly do?

Grilliant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Shin Splints and Shoes

Shin Splints and Shoes

(Posterior) Shin splints are the bane of my running existence…

Currently...
Currently…
 
I had my first debilitating bout with them in the Summer of 2016. When I started using a compression bandage, they seemed to go away like magic and I had never been happier. But because I wanted to make sure I was taking all precautions that I could, I ended up purchasing this pair thinking I was overpronating. 
 
Actually, based on the wear of my shoes, I realized that I may actually meet towards the side of underpronation. When I started accumulating miles on that pair, I made the switch to Saucony
 
I wore those up until the LA Marathon earlier this year. I think the toebox was too narrow because half way through the race I had throbbing pains coming from my right big toe. When I assessed the damage after the race, I had developed a lovely, red-colored blister and my first black toenail. 
 
Not wanting to repeat that experience again, I did a brief search on minimalistic shoes and came across a brand called Ryka, which apparently aims to design shoes based on the biomechanics of how “women run”. Basically, they claim that their shoes are made with the woman’s body in mind. 
 
Ryka
Ryka
 
I started using them back in April, and found them to be light and cushy. It was like running on a firm cut of padding, and my toes didn’t feel crushed like in the Sauconys. For the duration of the summer, I alternated between these and my pink Newtons (which I initially thought propagated my shin splints back in 2016, but that turned out to be false). 
 
Fresh Ryka Pria Shoes
Fresh Ryka Pria Shoes
 
I knew I was putting in a lot of miles into this pair as Fall approached, and the forefoot part of the shoes was definitely getting worn down after I made the switch to forefoot running.
 
Back in April
Back in April
 
I wasn’t sure what should be my next pair, especially since I was in the process of changing my running form, but I knew I had to replace the Rykas soon. Before I knew it, I started to feel niggling pains in my shins. When I looked at the underside of the Rykas, they had indeed developed the signs of overuse and overwear. 
 
These babies have been through a lot...
These babies have been through a lot…
 
Based on this picture, I think the brunt of my weight was being supported by my right side. I literally drove a hole right through my shoe πŸ˜‚ 
 
I then thought it might be a good choice to pick another minimalistic shoe, perhaps one with even less material because I was no longer running with a hell striking form. After doing some reading, I found out about Mizuno Wave Universe 5.
 
Mizuno Wave Universe 5
Mizuno Wave Universe 5
 
Forefoot runners seemed to rave about it, so I thought I’d give it a chance as well. It fit within my budget since it was an older version, and it didn’t hurt that they looked cute too. 
 
Flashy look
Flashy look
 
When I first ran in them, I was afraid they would rip! I walked around in them like slippers because that’s how they felt, but when I started to rack up the miles in them, they stepped up to the plate and proved their worth. 
 
This was only a few months ago!
This was only a few months ago!
 
They lasted through Route 66, and after the marathon I reduced my mileage and had a week off.  When I started back up again the following week however, my shins started acting up again. Posterior shin splints had popped up again, and now I am here, three weeks later, finally out of denial and realizing that low mileage needs to be no mileage for a while until my shins recover. 
 
I think there are a number of reasons why my shin pains popped up again—there’s the fact that I changed my form, and that even though my calves have adapted, my shins may still need time to catch up to the level of my calves.  Then there’s perhaps a lack of Vitamin D, starting up too fast after the marathon, increasing intensity to quickly, etc. Even though these kinds of running injuries seem like a setback, I’m trying to have a positive attitude. 
 
Hopefully, the time I would have spent pounding my legs into the ground will not be wasted as I switch to some low-impact cardio and strength training for some time. In fact, I feel like I’ve been needing a solid mental break from running for a while, and maybe this is my  “legitimate” way out. 
 
It also buys me some time to figure out which pair is next up for me to tear up 😝
Self-Care

Self-Care

I would say that over the past six months or so, I’ve been trying to solve an enigma that is, my hormones. Women’s hormones—no, they are not “TMI”, and they shouldn’t be. If I had to pick one thing that gets on my nerves , it’s when people follow women’s health/period talk with a TMI disclaimer. Way to normalize a totally natural thing, amiright? πŸ™„

I’ve noticed in this time that at least 1.5-2 weeks before my monthly cycle, I’d get really bad fatigue (like, getting up after 7am was a struggle—and I’m an early bird) and breast soreness. But when I noticed that it deeply effected my running efforts, I wondered if there was a connection. As soon as my cycle began and for two weeks after, running at “faster” paces with an proportionate amount of effort seemed easier to do. But it was a different story afterwards… 
 
My “two weeks of hell” for this particular month began the week I returned from Tulsa, and seemed to subside by this past weekend. Oh, but the onset of the first week was an extreme compared to past experiences. 
 
It began with breast soreness and fatigue, as expected. But then it was mood swings…I started to feel randomly sad and depressed throughout the day, and easily frustrated by little things. All of this combined was the perfect way for me to be set-off by even the smallest of triggers…triggers that I’d be able to brush off on a “normal” day. 
 
And of course, I was in tears by the time Friday of that week rolled around. There was a conflict at work and I felt I was unfairly scolded to for something that had no basis in argument. Thankfully I had E to vent to, but I just felt ridiculously mad and was dropping F-bombs like nobody’s business. Like I said, I was mad, and I felt like my feelings needed to be released. 
 
I did sleep on it, and did my best to let my feelings play out. I did my best to treat myself to the best self-care as possible. 
 
Lunch date with the sis <3
Lunch date with the sis <3
 
This included lots of rest, thinking in solitude, and a refreshing lunch out with my sister and a movie that Sunday. We went to see Coco, and had lunch at the Tender Greens in Westfield Century City. 
 
Seasonal specials
Seasonal specials
 
It was my third time visiting a Tender Greens location, and my second time getting the Falafel Plate. The first time I had the Falafel Plate was when my plate included a side kale salad (with garlic dressing + parmesan), a green dollop of hummus that looked like guacamole, tahini sauce, and a crisp crostini bread.
 
Sister's plate on the left & mine on the right
Sister’s plate on the left & mine on the right
 
This occasion’s plate was quite different, but delicious nonetheless.
 
Um, hello there.
Um, hello there.
 
Seasoned veggies, butter lettuce , and a thin, lavash-like flatbread were included. The falafel has a nice crisp exterior, and a gorgeous green hue on the inside. The definition of a perfect falafel. 
 
Also took in some rooftop night views---I love looking over cityscapes at night :)
Also took in some rooftop night views—I love looking over city-scapes at night πŸ™‚
 
But even with that incident now a part of the past, and having a pleasant weekend with the sis to help de-stress, I still was experiencing those PMS-like symptoms, but even stronger. In addition to the fatigue and soreness, I felt a mild loss of appetite, strong headaches that lingered throughout the day, and a cloud of un-motivation hovering over me as the following week came up. I cut down on my running mileage that week as well, due to feeling unmotivated and because shin splints were popping up again for me. Ugh, would it ever stop? 
 
After hearing me complain for days, my Dad suggested I address some potential vitamin deficiencies. He suggested I try taking a Vitamins B-12 supplement, and see if that put my energy levels back into balance. There was also the idea that Vitamin D could be something I may need to address as well, due to the demands of running and it being winter / less sunlight exposure and all. 
 
No running means waking up early anyways and heading off to lab as soon as I get up...and coming across squirrels plotting revenge...
No running means waking up early anyways and heading off to lab as soon as I get up…and coming across squirrels plotting revenge…
 
I started taking a supplement on Friday, and decided to take the weekend off from running to rest up. Saturday and Sunday were pretty relaxing, and I even went out for lunch with E at a new place at the USC Village—-Trejo’s Tacos!
 
Fresh all around
Fresh all around

I got the Cauliflower Bowl, and E got some chips and guac along with a cheese quesadilla and pink lemonade. My bowl was packed with beans, seasoned rice (almost as if it was doused in a spicy ketchup sauce?? But it tasted good…), fresh greens, pico, corn, and a cream sauce.

A feast!!!
A feast!!!

I even treated myself when I got home later in the day—to a seasonal flavor of Halo Top, Gingerbread House.

"I I had high hopes for @halotopcreamery Gingerbread House...but it had such a strong cinnamon flavor for me, and I wish the cookie pieces had a little more crunch to them πŸ˜•"
I had high hopes for @halotopcreamery Gingerbread House…but it had such a strong cinnamon flavor for me, and I wish the cookie pieces had a little more crunch to them πŸ˜•

It wasn’t a favorite of mine, but it was alright for a quick Saturday night dessert πŸ™‚

β™₯

This month so far has been a hectic and exhausting one for sure, but I’m glad that I’ve been quick to act and put my self-care first.

I’m hoping 2017 will end on a sweet and peacful note. Even though I won’t be around family, I’m hoping to spend some days with E sans work before she leaves, as well as planning to carpool with one of my friends to see my friend who lives in Vegas for New Year’s Eve. At least there are some exciting things coming up to keep me motivated πŸ™‚

Are you aware of when you need self-care?

Oklahoma City, OK

Oklahoma City, OK

We decided to take a day trip to Oklahoma City (OKC) since it was a drive, but local enough to call it a daytrip.

It was a cold morning, like all the other mornings that week, and after some morning coffee and a shakeout run (my muscle soreness seemed to calm down three days post-marathon), we left for OKC around 10am. From Tulsa, it was an one and a half hour drive.

Classen Curve
Classen Curve

I didn’t have much of an appetite when we left, but when we reached OKC, my head was aching and my hunger levels were increasing.

Apparently OKC is the the eighth-largest city in the U.S. by land area. And it was apparent..sure there were shops and infrastructure, but there was a whole lotta uninhabited land in between.

For lunch, we paid a visit to Green Goodies in Classen Curve.

Green Goodies Interior
Green Goodies Interior

It was primarily a cupcake shop, but they had some savory lunch options available.

Green Goodies
Green Goodies

I had their Southwest Quinoa Bowl since the avocado and spicy cream sauce sounded most appetizing to me at the time. My Dad had some more soup (lolol) and a veggie wrap.

I just loved the cream sauce and avocado of my bowl.
I just loved the cream sauce and avocado of my bowl.

The bowl was small, but definitely flavorful, warm, and filling for its size.

Veggie wrap & tomato soup.
Veggie wrap & tomato soup.

My dad’s soup and wrap looked like too meager to me, but he was alright with just that. He was starting to feel warm (later he ended up getting sick with a fever πŸ™ ), so it was just enough for him.

After lunch, I noticed that my headache still seemed to linger around, and I feel like it was made worse thanks to the car drive. I tried to nap it off, but I didn’t want to leave the car and brace the wind chill once we got to the OKC Memorial.

But I eventually did get out…

OKC Memorial
OKC Memorial

The memorial was a bittersweet, but beautiful display. There were two large gates guarding two opposite sides of the memorial, marked with the relevant times the bombings took place. Chair statues on the lawn represented the lives that were lost, and there was a reflecting pool in the middle.

22 years ago.
22 years ago.

My dad and I went inside the museum after walking around the memorial grounds, where it was much warmer. Once inside, we walked through two floors of exhibits, organized from the day of the event all the way through the investigations, aftermath, and the influence this tragedy had on the events in years to come.

It was an extremely cold day outside, but the fall weather made the trees turn such a beautiful orange color.
It was an extremely cold day outside, but the fall weather made the trees turn such a beautiful orange color.

I definitely walked out with an understanding and empathy for those that suffered, even though I was just a toddler when the bombings happened. After spending about two hours at the memorial, my dad and I stopped for some coffee before going for a walk at one of the nature parks. Soon after, we made the long-ish drive back home, just before it got dark.

Thanksgiving was the next day, and I did my best to enjoy and relax in each and every minute. I started off the day with a shakeout run, taking in fall views of the Arkansas River.

Riverside Trail
Riverside Trail

We had a Thanksgiving potluck at a friend’s house, and I surprisingly wasn’t super hungry. I ate what I wanted, but I didn’t have the desire to stuff myself completely.

We left our friend’s house around 4pm, and my Dad wanted to check out Best Buy for the beginning of Black Friday sales. Even after having pumpkin pie, I had a hankering for some Halo Top, so I grabbed a pint from Reasor’s and snacked on it in the parking lot, haha!

"I didn't just have pumpkin pie last night πŸŽƒ but happened to find the limited edition @halotopcreamery Pumpkin Pie flavor at @reasors as well! Had this in the parking lot while my Dad braced the Black Friday (or should I say Thursday??) Best Buy crowd πŸ˜…πŸ˜…"
“I didn’t just have pumpkin pie last night πŸŽƒ but happened to find the limited edition @halotopcreamery Pumpkin Pie flavor at @reasors as well! Had this in the parking lot while my Dad braced the Black Friday (or should I say Thursday??) Best Buy crowd πŸ˜…πŸ˜…”

It had small chunks of what seemed to be similar in taste and texture to pie crust, all mixed in a soft pumpkin ice cream base.

I went to sleep soon after returning home, and the next day was mostly spent running around to some more stores with my dad (on actual Black Friday, lol), and stopping by GNC for some bars to snack on on my flight back home.

Got to try two, new-to-me Fitjoy bars, and while I like the soft, chewy texture of Grandma’s Lemon Square, I couldn’t get behind the Raspberry Chocolate Truffle flavor much…I mean, if it’s dark chocolate? No thanks…

"Looking for a protein bar that packs a sour punch, while still maintaining a delicate balance of sweetness? @fitjoy Grandma's Lemon Square seems to fit the bill πŸ‘ŒπŸ½ πŸ‘΅πŸ½ πŸ‹"
“Looking for a protein bar that packs a sour punch, while still maintaining a delicate balance of sweetness? @fitjoy Grandma’s Lemon Square seems to fit the bill πŸ‘ŒπŸ½ πŸ‘΅πŸ½ πŸ‹”
"Eh, didn't like the Raspberry Truffle flavor that much. The raspberry flavor was somewhat overwhelming and the dark chocolate wasn't too appealing πŸ˜•"
“Eh, didn’t like the Raspberry Truffle flavor that much. The raspberry flavor was somewhat overwhelming and the dark chocolate wasn’t too appealing πŸ˜•”

I made it back to LA close to 6pm, and grabbed some Subway for dinner since I was extremely exhausted. It was a chore just to unpack, but once I hit my bed, I was able to fall asleep so easily and peacefully πŸ™‚

Green Goodies OKC Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Race Recap – Rock ‘n’ Roll Los Angeles Halloween Half Marathon

Race Recap – Rock ‘n’ Roll Los Angeles Halloween Half Marathon

The last time I ran the Rock n Roll Half Marathon in LA was three years ago, when I had just moved to LA. I was excited to have it be my first run in my new home, and a half marathon at that. It was before my marathon racing days…my how time flies, haha.

Making my rounds at the expo like a pro :P
Making my rounds at the expo like a pro πŸ˜›

But with time, I’ve also become more jaded with the whole expo/lead-up to race day. It’s like everything is such a routine, with nothing new to expect…to be honest, going to expos for packet pick-up seems more like a chore for me now than an exciting thing to do. I even got in a long run before stepping into this expo because of my marathon training schedule. This race was just another opportunity to run and get some miles in while continuing on my Route 66 Marathon journey—which happens to be in less than two days upon publishing this post!!

Needless to say, I was in and out of the convention center within a half hour. I made plans to spend the rest of the day with E back in my neighborhood. We met up near Venice and Figueroa, and hopped on a bus to take us to Abbot Kinney.

The Tasting Kitchen, Venice
The Tasting Kitchen, Venice

We made our way through the crowds of tourists and Lululemon-wearing locals to get to The Tasting Kitchen, where we came across even more crowds of pretentious folk socializing over brunch. Would our grad student salaries get us much here? LOL!

We were eventually seated near the back, in the middle of two other groups: one couple and to our left, another pair of friends.

The menu was tricky to figure out. When our waiter came by, I just ended up asking what were the vegetarian options on their menu, since I couldn’t figure it out. He recommended the burrata dish, so I just agreed to get that, along with a plain biscuit. E got a sandwich that had a really long description and name, as well as a cream cheese and chive biscuit.

Our waiter walked away in a jiffy as soon as he got our orders, but came back pretty quickly to notify E of some unfortunate news: they had run out of cream cheese and chive biscuits. E was just like…”uhh, can I just get a plain biscuit?” and the “problem” was solved? Haha, at least the waiter offered to comp her biscuit.

Burrata with butternut squash, chopped hazelnuts, balsamic sauce
Burrata with butternut squash, chopped hazelnuts, balsamic sauce

When our orders came, I justified the price I was paying for the meal with the fact that the presentation was perfectly on point. Roasted butternut squash slices topped with bubbly burrata and chopped hazelnuts, coated with a balsamic sauce. Was I really in Venice, or some upscale restaurant in New York owned by a chef fresh from taping a series of Top Chef?

The biscuit was super flaky and he flavor was quite enhanced by the butter and salt. A great vehicle for mopping up the leftover balsamic sauce.

Buttery, flaky biscuit
Buttery, flaky biscuit

After lunch, we tried to forget how much money E and I spent on a mid-day meal and walked into a few shops along Abbot Kinney. We then walked towards the Venice Canals, and then ended up at the beach. We ended up walking a TON but the walk was made eventful with a bunch of gossiping and laughing. My legs were shot, but I was able to get home by 4 and spent the rest of the evening rolling out my legs and resting as much as possible before race day.

Fun day by the water <3
Fun day by the water <3

The next morning, I woke up around 4am. I had a couple minutes to roll out my muscles more, and wore some knee-highs to help with some form of compression (even if it was a placebo effect, it seemed to work, haha). I also remembered to take some ibuprofen the night before, and that seemed to help attenuate the soreness from yesterday’s events.

Got a free KT Taping at the expo which seemed to help! Also rolled out my calves and wore some knee high socks to the race :)
Got a free KT Taping at the expo which seemed to help! Also rolled out my calves and wore some knee high socks to the race πŸ™‚

I didn’t have to spend money on a ride share service (yes!) since the Metro conveniently had trains running early Sunday morning with a stop close to the race start. I soon learned that other runners had the same idea when I saw them begin to board as we got closer and closer to DTLA.

As soon as I got to the start, I walked straight over to bag check, and luckily found some free snack bars to munch on as pre-race fuel. I also tried to keep warm by one of the heat lamps that a local restaurant in LA Live had set out, and waited until it was time to find my place at the start.

Morning, pre-race
Morning, pre-race

13.1 miles. It’s PR time…let’s do this!

When we were set to take off, I was able to gauge my pace so that I didn’t start off too fast unlike how I paced myself in the beginning at the Dodger’s 10k. I think I was a little ahead of the 1:45 pacer, but the pack eventually caught up to me at around mile 2.5. I stuck close to him, even though O felt like I was putting in a slightly harder effort for so early in the race.

Still, I felt good, my legs still felt fresh, and my shins were fine. Unfortunately, I began to lag at around mile 6, when we hit a steep hill in downtown approaching Koreatown. At that point, I was like, okay, I’ll just be a few minutes off, but maybe I can still PR.

I was able to keep my pace within 8:15-8:20/mi, even with water breaks. There were a ton of rolling hills between DTLA and Koreatown, all along Wilshire. At first, the hills seemed intimidating and never-ending—even though I was well-accustomed to the area and they weren’t really a surprise—but I felt strong overall and I was able to attack the upcoming hills with a newfound energy.

Race Finish!
Race Finish!

I was able to speed up towards the finish, and it seemed like my fatigue happily vanished. I finished the (technically) 13.3 mi course at a pace of 8:18/mi. Even though this course seemed less painful than the one I ran three years ago, I wouldn’t call this year’s course a fantastic change. I still prefer it to the one I ran in the past though.

The weather conditions were perfect: not too hot, not too cold. Transportation was easy to manage, the race loot was decent, and the medal had a snazzy design.

Race medal and shirt
Race medal and shirt

I didn’t PR, but I was happy with my outcome given the shin and calf soreness I was feeling leading up to the race. I also saw it as a great warm-up/race condition-simulating run for marathon prep. We’ll see how much it functioned as the latter come marathon race day this Sunday!

The Tasting Kitchen Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Mission Viejo Escape

Mission Viejo Escape

Two weekends ago, I was gifted with the chance to spend a weekend with my sister in her Mission Viejo digs, as well as spend some time with Dad since he was going to be in town soon after for business.

I managed to have two of my undergrad assistants come in to take care of something for me over the weekend, so I would be able to make my visit an overnight one. I left on a Saturday afternoon, and arrived just as my sister was getting off work.

She picked me up from the Metrolink station, and from there, we hunted down dinner at Burger Boss.

Burger Boss, Mission Viejo
Burger Boss, Mission Viejo

My sister had been wanting to check it out, and we got the chance to do so since the location was close by. They actually have a number of locations around the OC. It also happened to be right next to a Creamistry, so you could guess what we had for dessert…

Putting our orders in was harder than it looked...
Putting our orders in was harder than it looked…

When we entered BB, we saw some LCD screens on the wall, as well as an order/paying counter wayyyy up at the front.  We decided to give the LCD screens a shot despite making a fool out of our orders—because the buttons were so hard to press, my sis ended up with four different kinds of cheeses on her veg burger and I ended up with two sauces in my burger bowl, haha!

Everything was aesthetically on point, no doubt about that.
Everything was aesthetically on point, no doubt about that.

I made sure put ALL THE VEGGIES AND FRUIT (pineapple, lol) in my burger bowl, on a bed of spinach. My sis’ burger was definitely not lacking in cheese.

Grilled pineapple and mushrooms <3
Grilled pineapple and mushrooms <3

Like I alluded to earlier in the post, we walked right next door to Creamistry after getting our fill of veggies and protein.

Saturday night at Creamistry, Mission Viejo
Saturday night at Creamistry, Mission Viejo

I was leaning towards ordering a nutella or speculoos flavored liquid nitrogen-based ice cream (per usual), but then my sister pointed out their Halloween special: black ice cream with cookie pieces. I was sold.

Of course, I had to top it off with mochi
Of course, I had to top it off with mochi

My sis, of course, had her beloved chocolate. We had our frozen treats inside instead of taking them to go. It was not surprising that we felt cold afterwards, haha.

My sister was adamant about making the next day a “study day”, since she had some exams coming up. I didn’t mind, since I had data to analyze anyways. The next morning, I met her at a Starbucks after a morning run. I had her bring my laptop and things over in the car, so it worked out perfectly πŸ˜›

We spent the morning working on our respective items, and when my sister suggested we get lunch, she didn’t have to tell me twice. To make things simple and local, we drove over to the Veggie Grill in Laguna Niguel.

Veggie Grill, Laguna Niguel
Veggie Grill, Laguna Niguel

I love how VG has seasonal menus—its makes my multiple visits to their various locations all the more worth it πŸ˜›

Fall '17 Menu
Fall ’17 Menu

This season’s menu seemed to offer a number of delicious-sounding options. I finally chose to get the Rustic Farm Bowl. My sis stuck to her fave chik’n ranch burger.

Rustic Farm Bowl -
Rustic Farm Bowl – farro, grilled mushrooms, roasted yams, braised cannellini beans, broccoli pesto, roasted tomatoes, red pepper sauce

The angles of the picture make it look like the bowl was a large one, but the contents were petite to my dismay. Still, it was quite filling! Just fibrous veggies doing their job I suppose…

Nature's protein-rich, starch-filled goods.
Nature’s protein-rich, starch-filled goods.

After lunch, we took a long afternoon nap and went out later in the evening to pick up some snacks to have at home so my sis could continue studying. Despite staying within my sister’s home turf and spending most of our time together at our laptops, it was a great weekend getaway for me. Mission Viejo is literally eye candy with its rolling hills and sunshine (although I will say it’s a runner’s nightmare—at least this runner’s nightmare, with all those hills!!)

Veggie Grill Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Race Recap – New Balance L.A. Dodgers Foundation 5K & 10K

Race Recap – New Balance L.A. Dodgers Foundation 5K & 10K

I guess this will be the first year since 2013 that I did not run at least 12 races. It was some personal goal I made up when I first started running in order to make the whole experience of running in races and writing recaps an enjoyable one.

But now I find myself picking and choosing which events to run based on my training plans. Before this 10k in October, I had only run two races for the year…two marathons at that.

In my quest to become a more competitive runner (particularly marathoner), my goals have shifted in focus, and I guess that reflects in the frequency I write up these race recaps. I still enjoy writing them though—it’s just taken me forever due to the fact I’m still way behind on my posting schedule!

♣

It was my first time running the New Balance L.A. Dodgers Foundation 10K, and race day was definitely before World Series fever. I was excited to get back into the racing mindset, and the timing, theme, and setting of this race seemed perfect.

Since the race start was at Dodger’s Stadium early on a Sunday morning, and I was still over in Santa Monica, the best thing for me to do to get there on time was to Uber. I wasn’t expecting to have my ear talked off, but there was a passenger already in the car. Despite it being 4:30am, he had a lot of energy and would not. Stop. Talking.

I honestly wanted to close my eyes and try to get any amount of sleep possible, but I wasn’t successful. I did eventually get to one of the Dodger Stadium entrances, and got out immediately.

How about "let's go runners!" ??
How about “let’s go runners!” ??

It was still dark outside, and I hoped that by walking close to some of the vendors setting up, I’d be able to snag a pre-race bar or two.

Fortunately, KIND bar had read my mind, as their booth was readily handing out bars to people passing by.

I was also able to snack on some sample pieces of Lenny and Larry’s cookies since Vitamin Shoppe also had a tent set up, and they were serving up cookie pieces in small cups.

Soon after, people begain to line up at the start and I found my place in the beginning of the pack. I did my best to pace myself at the start, but I did start off pretty fast, going at 7:19/mi. I blame the horde of anxious runners around me!

I did stabilize my pace around mile 1, after getting past the first steep hill. From that point on, I hovered around an 8:00-8:12/mi pace.

I soon realized that this course would not go down as one of my favorites. There were too many surprising hills, gravel-coated roads, twists, and turns. There were a number of steep inclines followed by fast downhills. It balanced out my pace, but it was a beating on my legs—especially since it was my first race running with a forefoot-based form.

Bird's eye view
Bird’s eye view

I found myself having to push physically and mentally by the time we hit mile 5. The last mile had to be the most boring in design ever. We were literally running around a parking lot…

But I did finish at an average pace of 8:17/mi!

Ultimately, I found it a straightforward, but challenging course with unnecessary add-on. I mean, why did there have to be hills??

Post-race
Post-race

I grabbed an apple from a table positioned near the post-race walk path, and guzzled down a bottle of aloe water.

I later learned that I ended up placing third in my age division, and so I was given two free tickets to a Dodger’s game—next year, haha! Even though I’ve never been a big sports fan, having the chance to go to a game for free sounded like an opportunity that would be a shame to miss out on.

Two free baseball game tickets...for next year...
Two free baseball game tickets…for next year…

After walking around the race area for a bit, I walked out of the stadium towards Chinatown station. My next stop was a light brunch in Pasadena, Urth Caffe style.

Urth is probably now considered an LA staple, and after visiting a number of their locations over the years, I was surprised that I waited this long to go to the one in Pasadena. But going post-race was the perfect reason to go.

One thing I’ve learned is that there will always be crowds. That’s why the local chain has been around this long…

There's always gonna be a line. Why do I even act surprised??
There’s always gonna be a line. Why do I even act surprised??

But I came prepared knowing what to get: the Italia Tiramisu, and a chai latte.

Dining outside
Dining outside

I was seated in the front outside, and slowly dug into the tiramisu while I waited for my latte to come out. But unlike the Matcha and Earl Grey tiramisus I’ve had in the past, I found the dark chocolate shavings and strong coffee flavor of the Italia Tiramisu not in my favor.

Eh, I'll pass on this one next time.
Eh, I’ll pass on this one next time.

The latte was warm, but lacked flavor. Where was the chai? Even with the lack of flavor, I can’t deny that overall it was a satisfying post-race treat!

Lacked flavor, but it was warm & satisfying
Lacked flavor, but it was warm & satisfying

Urth Caffe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Birthday Weekend, Day 2

Birthday Weekend, Day 2

My friend stayed Saturday night, and since she planned to leave on Monday morning, we had another full day we could put to use for our enjoyment.

I let her sleep in while I completed a long run. The coach I’m working with had me transition to a forefoot form style of running, and I was definitely feeling it in my calves! My legs were wrecked for the rest of the day, but since we had a beach visit planned, I knew relaxation was part of the agenda for the day and my legs would get some much needed R&R.

We were off to Huntington Beach around noon, and with traffic, surprisingly managed to arrive around 2pm. Before heading the the beach, we decided to get a late lunch at Vegan Nirvana because we were super hungry.

Vegan Nirvana
Vegan Nirvana

From the outside, VN looked like an unassuming strip mall restaurant…

Stepped into the blue zone...
Stepped into the blue zone…

…but on the inside, the walls were painted a deep blue and had a strong cooling effect. There wasn’t too much seating and the walkways were narrow, and I think the management was confused on whether they wanted the interior to give off a oceanic or cosmic vibe.

Spaceships…or sharks…or both?

We had to wait for about fifteen minutes before getting a table, but my friend and I were able to look at the menu beforehand and decide on what we wanted. I knew from the get-go that their Ultimate Liberation dish was their star entree. It was a vegan fish tacos dish that was described to be an entree of fish-free fillet tacos topped with cabbage, pico de gallo, cilantro, and Chipotle sauce in corn tortillas.

Menu
Menu

My friend went for the chik’n tenders and that crispy dish sounded like a good choice to me.

They were super crispy!
They were super crispy!

We shared our entrees with each other, and agreed that our veggie meats overall were top notch quality. My friend even commented that the vegan fish tacos actually tasted like fish.

These fish-free tacos were delicious..
These fish-free tacos were delicious…

After lunch, we drove a short way to Huntington Beach. Several loops around a residential area later, we found parking. We were also fully prepared with some beach towels, but the closest we got to the water that day was a foot dip. Instead, we lounged on the sand and read/napped for about an hour.

Relaxation at its finest…

Huntington Beach!
Huntington Beach!

When it was approaching early evening, we decided to head back to the car and make our was more inland towards Fountain Valley: the Mecca of all those quirky dessert foodie trends you see on Instagram.

Birthdae Cake
Birthdae Cake

Birthdae Cake was our destination, and it was nestled unassumingly in a strip mall across from Albertsons.

It was a small establishment, and while there weren’t any lines out the door during our visit, the people that were there knew what they wanted and were content with what they got.

The wallpaper :P
The wallpaper πŸ˜›

I knew I had to get one of their iconic creations featured multiple times on the ‘gram. Their cookie dough ice cream sandwich was something I could not avoid getting.

COOKIE DOUGH ICE CREAM SANDWICH YES IT EXISTS.
COOKIE DOUGH ICE CREAM SANDWICH YES IT EXISTS.

My ice cream sandwich was birthday ice cream in-between two slabs of Cookie Monster cookie dough. The cookie dough slabs were sense, thick, and though they weren’t as flavorful as I imagined, they held up and didn’t fall apart/melt.

My friend got a simple ice cream cone, but we were both delighted by our choices. After our dessert for the day, we drove back to LA and spent the rest of the evening relaxing at home.

My friend dropped me off in lab the next morning before heading back on her way to Santa Cruz. Her visit only emphasized how fun and social this summer has been so far for me!

Did Summer 2017 fare well for you?

Vegan Nirvana Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Race Recap – 30th Rock β€˜n’ Roll San DiegoΒ Marathon

Race Recap – 30th Rock β€˜n’ Roll San DiegoΒ Marathon

On June 4th, just a few days after returning from our Europe trip, I ran my fourth marathon in San Diego. I was breaking my “just running LA” streak with this race, and it was also just about two months after I ran LA this year.

I woke up around 4am and had enough time to put on my race gear, and call for an Uber right outside where my sister and I were staying for our Airbnb. Since I called for one early enough, there wasn’t any issue with traffic so it was an easy drive to the race start at Balboa Park.

From where I was dropped off, I followed other runners to the exact location of bag check, restrooms, and the starting line. At that moment, I realized I made the mistake of forgetting my race belt…so I had to improvise πŸ˜›

Sometimes you have to improvise...
Sometimes you have to improvise…

I literally pinned a ziploc bag to the side of my shirt and stuffed my Clif Shot Bloks and some freebie bars from the expo into it, and it actually managed to hold up for the entire race, haha!

The race start was at 6am, so I had some time to kill. I took my stretching, and after checking in my bag, found my spot at the start line. I was shooting for a 3:40 (around 8:23/mi pace) based on how my training the past two months had fared, and after talking with my coach the day before, we thought it was a reasonable and good goal to shoot for. Luckily they had pacers, and I made sure to stay glued to mine.

The first few miles leaving Balboa Park and through North Park seemed to be alright. I felt like the pace was sustainable, I felt properly fueled, and I tried to only drink to thirst. As we made our way through Normal Heights, I felt like I was transported back to the Silver Lake/Hollywood portion of the LA Marathon. There was a good crowd turn-out throughout this section of the race, but I managed to stay focused and stay within a few steps behind my pacer, so I mostly tuned out what was occurring in my surroundings.

I started fueling with one shot blok around mile 5, and the plan was to refuel every 5 miles. Miles 10-13 felt slightly harder to push through since I started to have an unsettling feeling in my stomach. Just after approaching Old Town, I had to stop and use the first porta-potty that I saw. I never had to stop mid-race (at least for a half or full marathon) to use the restroom, so I was slightly anxious about how it would cut into my time. Unfortunately, I knew a 3:40 would not be possible this time around since my group was already way ahead by the time I was back on the course. I did try to speed up around mile 15 as we made our way to Mission Bay, but it didn’t help much.

It was disappointing knowing that I wouldn’t make my goal time for this race, as well as having to finish without external support. And honestly from that point on, it seemed like the course got much more difficult. There were hills, less crowds, and a mundane, mind-numbing stretch of the last portion of the race on Highway 163. I was certainly having my doubts about making sure I was sub 4:00 at this point, let alone finishing. I began feeling an intense sense of fatigue around mile 18 that pressed on until about mile 24.

I managed to recover and pick up my pace once we were back on city streets, and wrapping around Balboa Park again. It was kind of funny because the last few yards of the finish made me remember of a weekend trip my sister and I took to San Diego a little under two years ago. On the way back to where my sister was picking me up, I even passed the hotel we stayed at!

After passing under the finish line arch, we were handed water bottles and our finisher medals. I was disappointed by the fact that no mylar blankets were being handed out, and I honestly felt like I needed one. I felt slightly cold, shaky, mild nausea, and every step I took felt like I was carrying a 1,000 pound load on my back and my muscles were taking the beating. It was my first time feeling such intense fatigue after a race…my past races usually brought on powerful soreness the day after, but I usually felt okay immediately after a race.

Fancy-looking medal but what's the point if you're shivering?
Fancy-looking medal but what’s the point if you’re shivering?

They did give free jackets to the marathon runners though. Many of the half marathoners were confused/upset as to why they couldn’t get one, and while I could see that they felt left out, I would have been perfectly content is they gave everyone mylar blankets at the end. That should be a mandatory requirement at marathons!

I wanted to sit down but every part of my body ached. Ugh, probably the worst I've ever felt after a race...
I wanted to sit down but every part of my body ached. Ugh, probably the worst I’ve ever felt after a race…

After making my way over to where my sister was parked, we planned to get lunch somewhere in SD, but since the race closures were still active, it was hard to navigate without coming across a roadblock. So we ended up driving north to Santa Ana, after I thought about some possible restaurants I’ve been wanting to visit in the OC. GD Bro Burger was one of them, it was open, and crowds were not to be seen.

GD Bro Burger
GD Bro Burger

The wall decor and signage was very interesting—very much in tune with current pop culture and popular slang. And you can’t have burgers without sports playing on a TV hanging from the wall, so that was obviously there as well, haha.

My sister got herself their vegan burger, but it didn’t come with their classic hot red-colored bun. Rather, it was a stiff gluten-free bun that my sister had to resist from spitting out. She did like her two crispy mozzarella sticks though.

herd
“A not-so-delicious veggie burger”

I got the pizza fries sans pepperoni, and man, did they not skimp on the cheese.

_pizza_fries
All the cheese, some marinara, and very skinny fries.

I reached my dairy quota for the month from that tray alone.

When we got back home, my sister and I quickly got into couch potato mode. I slept earlier because the next day would be my first day back to work after two weeks of vacation. Surprisingly, I felt minimal fatigue and soreness the next day…it was as if I never ran the day before! It was very bizarre cause I thought I would be limping around with DOMS, but I was walking just fine. I guess the training I had in the past two months really impacted my endurance and muscle recovery.

I think I’ll be passing on this race in the future though. The course wasn’t as exciting as LA’s, and the experiences I had during the race didn’t leave me feeling my best. BUT, I did still maintain a sub-4:00 pace, and I came out injury-free! That’s something worth celebrating πŸ™‚

Have you ever had to do anything physically strenuous right after traveling/when you were feeling jet-lagged?

GD Bro Burger Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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