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

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 😛

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 🙂

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

Summer Winding Down

Summer Winding Down

The weekend my sister arrived to settle in the OC was also the weekend one of my lab mates was hosting a potluck at his house. It’s been years since anyone in our lab has gone out of their way to organize a lab get-together outside of lab, and so I have to give credit to my friend for taking on the challenge, haha!

Since my sister had the car now, she was invited so she could give us a ride ;).  Nah, she was welcome too. 

We carpooled with E and another lab mate and drove to West Covina east of LA. It took us an hour in headache-inducing traffic, and we were the last group to arrive. My friend who was hosting (let’s call him J) and his wife greeted us, and led us out to the backyard where the pool and food spread was. 
 
We got settled in with some plates of food, and sat by the pool while we ate. Everyone except E, my sister, and I made it to the pool sometime during our stay, but I was too lazy to even dip my feet in. 
 
We left around 4 in order to avoid traffic, and still faced stopped cars on all sides. By the time we dropped off my lab mate and E, it was almost 6! My sis wanted to get dinner since she wasn’t able to properly eat over the week due to stress from moving and settling in, and I was eager to oblige. I knew how much she liked Tocaya, so we paid their Venice location a visit. 
 
Tocaya, Venice
Tocaya, Venice
 
We found free street parking a few blocks away, and didn’t hesitate to park and power walk. Our hunger had caught up to us at that point, and we couldn’t afford to look at the menu for too long. 
 
A much cozier vibe.
A much cozier vibe.
 
I ended up getting a Shredded Kale and Quinoa salad, while my sis ordered the bowl she fell in love with during our last visit
 
Shredded Kale and Quinoa
Shredded Kale and Quinoa – quinoa & shredded kale tossed with white beans, avocado, chipotle-dusted almonds, chile lime pepitas seeds, pico de gallo & red-wine vinaigrette with chipotle-dusted tofu & vegan chipotle jack

My salad bowl was decent, but if it had not been for the dressing, it would have fallen flat. Even the tofu was slightly rubbery (and I prefer chewy tofu over the soft white kind!).

After dinner, we walked home with the humid beach air clinging over us, and despite there being no cooling beach breeze that night, we were able to sleep pretty soundly just from pure exhaustion.

The next morning, the weather was too great to pass up the opportunity to do something, so my sis and I hurried to lab soon after my long run. I had a ton of work to do, but she was willing to help me out and we were done in the afternoon. 

Destination O.T. Pasadena!
Destination O.T. Pasadena!
 
I let her pick where we should go for lunch, and after reading my “foodie bucket list” excel sheet (yes I have one, lol), Slater’s 50/50 in Pasadena sounded the most appetizing.
 
She drove, and while we did hit traffic passing by downtown, it was an easy, sunny drive to Pasadena once we got past all that. We found parking in Old Town on a side street, and walked over to the restaurant which was already packed with Sunday afternoon lunch-goers. 
 
Odd decor!
Odd decor!
 
We were able to get booth seating, and started off with Vampire Dip as an appetizer, and then decided to split the Veggie Burger because we predicted it would be a lot of food. Annnnd, we were right, haha!
 
Menu
Menu
 
The Vampire Dip was a cheesy, garlic concoction that was super thick, and its consistency was more like a melted cheese ball than a smooth bowl of dip. It came served in a bread bowl, with some flatbread crisps and veggies for dipping. 
 
Vampire Dip!
Vampire Dip!
 
I think the crew at Slater’s 50/50 knows how big their portions are, because our burger came to us already cut in half! 
 
Eat Your Veggies ~ veggie patty, red peppers, avocado mash, cucumbers, sage & garlic aioli, honey wheat bun
Eat Your Veggies ~ veggie patty, red peppers, avocado mash, cucumbers, sage & garlic aioli, honey wheat bun

My sis also felt like getting a shake, but finishing it was a whole other issue 😛

Half a burger was enough, not sure what my sis was thinking when she thought she could finish the shake!
Half a burger was enough, not sure what my sis was thinking when she thought she could finish the shake!

After getting our fill, it was mid-afternoon and I wanted my sis to have enough time to drive back down to the OC.

GOYO
So much yes.

Of course, I asked if we could stop by a nearby Grocery Outlet (this time the one in Rosemead), so I could get my cheap groceries for the week! My sis didn’t argue, seeing that she could benefit from the trip as well. Cheap food to off-set gas costs, haha!

Slater's 50/50 Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Race Recap – Santa Monica-Venice Christmas Run 2016

Race Recap – Santa Monica-Venice Christmas Run 2016

My last race for this year was one I actually ran two years ago—this time fortunately fared much better in pacing! I also did not have to wake up early in order to have enough time to take a bus or train to get to the race start. I just had to wake up, go out for a “warm-up jog”, and within a half hour I was there!

start
Santa all smiles at the race start.

There was no bag check (of course), so there was no place to keep my race shirt, even though I wanted to keep it because it was a long-sleeve and actually pretty cute! The 10k and 5k race starts were staggered so that the 10k race started at 8am. The 5kers had a head start at 7:30am, and so the majority of the runners from that race were done by the time we started.

Santa cheered us on as we dashed across the starting line. I was able to keep a steady pace between 7:40-8:20 throughout the entire run. At first it felt my lungs were burning from the cold air, and my feet also began to feel numb through my socks, but after ~2 miles in, it began to feel easier to stick to a faster pace the rest of the run.

at-the-end-of-the-race
Bunch of people wondering what to do after the race has finished…and the DJ rockin’ out to his own jamz.

I finished at an average pace of 8:12/mi, and it felt so refreshing! I managed to guzzle down a half a bottle of water, and proceeded to walk by the small number of booths that were present. I also couldn’t help but notice the DJ who was there—he was very much into the music!

finish
Yay…okay, now I’m bored…

I couldn’t find much in terms of samples and post-race freebies…I even had to pass on some intriguing-looking marshmallows because they contained gelatin 🙁

couldnt-have-these-tho
Why is there gelatin in you?!

Since there was nothing much left for me at this point, I ended up walking from the finish point in Venice back to Santa Monica…really it was only a 25 minute walk, and from the beach, it was another 30 minute walk to lunch.

I actually ended up at a Medditeranean/Lebanese restaurant on Pico—Z Garden.

z-garden
I see you…

When I stepped inside, it was as if I stepped inside my best friend’s family’s house. There was a TV playing Arabic music videos and a whole glass counter full of baklava and other Middle Eastern sweet treats.

house
Such ample seating!

There was a handful of vegetarian items on the menu, and I decided to get the veggie kebab plate.

The dining area was in a expansive space, but I was their lone diner at the time. A few people came in for take-out orders while I was there though.

My plate came with a generous portion of Lebanese rice, a side salad, smooth, finely-ground hummus, a sour cheese I’m assuming was labne, pickled radishes, and of course my roasted veggies.

vegkebab-plate
Veggie Kebab Plate—-fit for a vegetarian ready to feast!

ALso had to have pita bread on the side!

pitaaaaaaaaa
Can’t forget the pita!

I was the ultimate fan of this hummus…and cheese side.

sidez
Hummus (and labne)?

I was finished by noon, and continued my walk home. I immediately did some laundry and organizing before crashing into a two-hour long nap. I didn’t leave the house until later that evening to visit a friend, since she’s moving from LA this week with her lab to a different university. It was bittersweet having to send her off, but I have to say I’m proud of myself for going out on a Saturday night for once. I even stayed out late enough to call for an Uber back home, haha.

pace
In good time 🙂

Are you a fan of holiday-themed events?

Z Garden Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Fala Me to Fala Bar (Again)

Fala Me to Fala Bar (Again)

I’m wondering if I should rename this blog “Will Study for (Mediterranean) Food” because that pretty much seems to describe what I eat when I go out on the weekends…but I mean, what’s there to be defensive about? The cuisine speaks for itself—it’s balanced, wholesome, flavorful, and pretty much can be found anywhere you look in LA.

Fala Bar, Venice
Fala Bar, Venice

Moving to Santa Monica has made it much easier for me to check out all the places (by foot) that were inaccessible to me before, due to the long travel time of public transit or, in some cases, because public transit did not pass through those areas. The row of shops and restaurants on Abbot Kinney was one of those areas. When I had a sudden craving for Medi-food on Saturday, but I didn’t want to venture too far east of West LA, I decided to stop by this hidden gem of a neighborhood for a late lunch.

I first tried Fala Bar >back in April at their Melrose location. Since I was in the Fairfax/Grove area most weekends when I lived in DTLA (DTLA to Mid-City is easy to travel back-and-forth by bus), visiting this location was not a problem. Now that it’s a little out of the way and the Venice one isn’t anymore, I was eager to dig into some familiar food in a new locale.

food
Need help deciding what to get?

I have plans to explore Abbot Kinney more in the future, as there are so many cute shops and eateries lined up side-by-side. The area reminded me of a small district in Disneyland—the sidewalks were small, and the buildings were close together as if it was a movie set for a small town.

signz
Abbot (Kinney) that Fala Life 😛

I found Fala Bar nestled between Blue Star Donuts and a cafe serving up acai bowls. Last time I visited Fala Bar, I proposed to have one of their burgers if I ever visited again, but I truly wanted a hearty plate. I ended up getting the Baba Plate, which didn’t come with falafel but instead a fluffy, round piece of soft pita bread.

plate
Unpictured Tahini and Babaganoush -> Cucumber&Tomato Salad + Cabbage + Tabouli -> Pita Bread

I carefully carried my compostable tray outside, and sat at the counter positioned just in front. It was an awkward seating arrangement because it was literally on the sidewalk, and my back was facing those that were walking by. Funny thing was, people would slow down their stride to take a look at what I was eating. Some even went inside Fala Bar after seeing my plate of colorful cabbage and creamy tahini.

platee
Plate of beauty in full view!!

Everything was eaten until only drops of lemon juice colored purple were left on the tray. I could have spent the rest of my afternoon checking out the shops, but the heat/crowds got to me, so I chose to save that as an adventure for another day. I also wanted to get home and just completely relax since I didn’t have to make plans to go to lab (for once!) for the remainder of Labor Day Weekend! I needed to make time to plan my adventure on Monday…;)

What cuisine do you tend to mostly gravitate towards when eating out?

Fala Bar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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