Winter races 2013

Last month I signed up for 3 races to round out the year. Part of it was so I could stay motivated because now that is gets dark before I even leave work, it’s even harder to convince myself for an after-work run. Part of it was knowing I need to do something to offset the holiday feasting that will no doubt take place. Most of it is because I’m running a half-marathon the first weekend of February. Damn, February is so far away! But if I didn’t have a few smaller goals to work towards leading up to this race, I know my inner laziness would get the best of me. I wouldn’t train until after New Year’s Day, I’d freak out over how close the race is, and I’d probably injure myself. Yeah, I’d like to avoid that.

So here’s my very light-race schedule for the end of the year:

Sat, Nov 23rd: The Cooking Light & Healthy Fit Foodie 5k – I’m running with an old j-school friend of mine who enjoys food and running as much as I do! The 5k is held in conjunction with the San Diego Food & Wine Festival, so the Finisher’s Village will include Stella Artois beer tasting, Cupcake Vineyards wine tasting, and more than 15 food tastings and demos. Running so I can eat? Yes please! This run was made for me & I’m really excited about running it with my buddy.

Thurs, Nov 28th: 7th Annual Six Tunnels to Hoover Dam Turkey Trot 12k – Speaking of running so I can eat, this will be my first year running a Turkey Trot. I’m a tad nervous about this because I signed up for the 12k distance instead of the 5k. Why you ask? The trail we’re running used to be the old railroad tracks to bring supplies to build the Hoover Dam. They’ve since removed the tracks, but the 12k route brings you through all 6 tunnels to a turnaround point with a view of the dam (hence the name). The shorter route is on the same trail, but your turnaround point is earlier, thus no Hoover Dam views :-( I figure if I’m running a turkey trot with Hoover Dam in the name, I have to see it right? Plus, those extra couple miles mean more turkey and pie for me afterwards, yum…

Sun, Dec 8th: Athleta Iron Girl Del Mar Women’s 10K – Another trail run hot on the heels of Thanksgiving. What am I thinking? Still, I’m looking forward to this one, and it gives me an excuse to get out of my bubble. I’m running this one alone unless I can convince some friends to join in. Either way, I’ve wanted to run an Iron Girl event for a while because I love their mission to empower women towards a healthy lifestyle.

These races are all coming up pretty fast, so I’ve got my work cut out for me. Unfortunately, I haven’t run much since my last half marathon in October, so logging relatively high mileage (5+ miles) per session may be an issue. At this point, consistency will be my only friend until the 5k. I’ll try to post my training log next week, but until then, stay balanced!

 

Yogi tea is sending me signs…

Earlier today, I killed time at the DMV by looking up potential universities and resources about a particular master’s degree. I’m a little shy to give many details about it, as it’s pretty speculative at this point and I like to hold things pretty close to my chest until all deals are sealed and loose ends tied. I knew even while earning my bachelor’s that I wanted to return to grad school, but for what exactly? I went to J-school, changed my minor countless times and still couldn’t make up my mind, resorting to a double minor. If I had learned about fields like cultural anthropology any time earlier than my senior year, I would’ve double majored in that as well. What can I say? I’ve always had a little trouble with focus.

I assumed I would get my MBA, not because I wanted to really, but because I thought it the pertinent thing to do. When I graduated only a few years ago, the job market was dismal, especially in the journalism/communications/PR fields — I considered even then jumping straight into grad school. Yet, I convinced myself that jumping into an MBA (or any master’s) program with no plan or focus on what I wanted to do with it when I got out would be an ill-advised investment. Instead I hit the job market running and put any graduate education plans on the sidelines.

As you may imagine, however, I don’t really want an MBA. (Who really does *want* to study for an MBA? The motivation typically stems from a desire to succeed or move up in one’s career, not from an actual desire of learning the material, right? …OK obviously I’m biased and that’s just my opinion…) I certainly see the immense value it would provide should I continue down this current career path. But as I looked on my phone this morning, at the various universities offering the particular program I have in mind now, I got a bit hopeful. Yet, I was also scared, so I didn’t want to let myself feel hopeful. So I saved the links and moved on.

I left the DMV and got to work. I made myself a cup of tea. Then this little gem presented itself:

this is not my actual tea, I drank mine too quickly and tossed it before I remembered to snap a photo (image c/o http://integrativenutrition.tumblr.com)

this is not my actual tea, I drank mine too quickly and tossed it before I remembered to snap a photo (image c/o http://integrativenutrition.tumblr.com)

Maybe it’s not really a sign, but the little note on the end of my ginger herbal tea bag left an impression on me all the same. I can trust my intuition, if I only listen. I read it, again and again, and it put a smile on my face. I let the thought sink in: maybe I really do know what I want for my future.

2013 Goals – Yes this is still valid in May!

I posted this a tad late (MAJOR understatement), but this year started with one goal only to grow into many. Some are related, some are similar to my 2012 Goals, and some have come up after the many events of this challenging and wonderful year.

At the start of the year, I declared 2013 the year of health! It tied in with my resolution, which is to cultivate a daily yoga practice, but the focus for me was purely physical: I wanted to be fit to look good. I wanted to be happy with the person I saw in the mirror everyday. Fast forward some months, and those desires still hold true. However, after seeing what this year has had in store for me already, I think it’s more accurate to declare this the year of love. This year means love for my family, love for my craft, love for the future that I’m creating, and most importantly, love for myself. This may not happen in the blink of an eye that years typically turn out to be, but this year can make all the difference. It has already taught me that there is room in my heart to grow and that yes, there is a capacity to love even more.

With an open heart, here is my list of goals for 2013. Last year I was 2 for 12, and I kept  my resolution (to pay off my credit card with the highest APR!), so let’s see how the rest of this year fares:

  • Cultivate a daily yoga practice.
  • Eat clean 80/20.
  • Be active every day, even if it’s a 10 min walk to the coffee shop or a much-needed time to stretch #enjoytheworld
  • Now that I’ve paid for all transportation, save at least $2,000 for living, eating, and entertainment expenses for my European adventure this summer!
  • Pay off my second credit card & be 100% credit card debt free by Nov 5th, 2013!
  • Earn more money this year. Create other avenues that fuel my passion and my bank account if that’s what it takes!
  • Learn more about cooking (I just bought a TON of cookbooks to help me with this particular goal).
  • Write for a food-related publication (other blog, site, magazine?!)
  • Find the strength during mile 11 of the Long Beach Half Marathon run through it and not walk.

I keep running into a quote or thought really since the exact words vary each time, but the aim is simple: Focus on how far you’ve come and not how far you have to go. With that in mind, here’s a few things I’ve already accomplished this year:

  • I’ve saved up enough money for a 2.5 week trip to Europe across 5 cities. I will celebrate a wedding, see so many of my closest friends, go to new places and see one of my favorite cities in the summer for the first time! I’m doing all of this because I was disciplined enough to save my hard-earned cash!
  • I earned a merit raise at my job. I guess this technically resulted from the work I did in 2012, but it still counts ;-)
  • I started to actually take my overall health seriously. My body deserves the best I can give it, so that’s exactly what I’m doing #fitforlife #healthyeveryday
  • I ran my SECOND half marathon – the OC Half – and despite an old knee / ITB injury, I did it in a much faster time than I ever expected.
  • I traveled with my dad and sister to the Philippines for the first time in 23 years. It was the greatest experience of my life to spend so much time with my family who is so far away.
  • Oh, and yesterday I won a friendly plank competition against my siblings. Held it for 2 minutes, and while that might be a small victory, it’s still a personal record!

Oh 2013, you’ve treated me well and taught me so much already, I’m looking forward to what the rest of the year brings!

Finding your edge

howfar

 

Playing your edge. It’s not a new concept, but still one that returns to my mind every day. Sometimes it’s fun. See how far you can go. The exhilaration from the unknown can feel like a fierce breeze luring me from my comfort zone. It can also be painful. The fear of getting hurt, of losing out, of being wrong — these all can feel more real than even the most enticing breeze. So I learn to play my edges. How far can I do without going too far? How much can I push the boundaries of what “too far” is?

exceedlimits

 

The term itself came to me from yoga. My instructors would advise me to seek out the very most I could do with my body, find a place there where I could remain and harness my own power of the mind to truly keep me there. They gave me a name to something I’ve always played around with, no pun intended. Sometimes I could be cautious or meek, looking outward but staying within that comfortable boundary. Other times, I can do nothing but leap and hope to fly. What does playing my edge in yoga teach me about finding my edge in life?

Thanks blogosphere: mushroom bourguignon

Mushrooms were once the nemesis. They’re a fungus. A FUNGUS. They couldn’t possibly be good. The texture is gross. The taste is (much) less than pleasant. How was that even food??, my younger self would think. Even my recent past-self would say that. In very small and certain instances, my present-self could say that about mushrooms (I’m still overcoming a picky palate from childhood, baby steps). On this particular evening however, I have nothing bad to say.

This mushroom bourguignon recipe from Smitten Kitchen is divine. I haven’t even tasted it yet. Reading the recipe made my mouth water. The day I found it, I was aimlessly wandering through the food blogosphere on a cool, rainy day. The scene was already set for comfort food. I tucked away the recipe for another cool day in need of comfort, a day when I also had the ingredients in my fridge (namely, the mushrooms, but also I was out of carrots and onions at the time).

The smell is rich, and as the bourguignon simmers to a lovely thick consistency, I keep catching myself at the stove, stirring at it absent mindedly if only for the smell. When I made a very conscious decision to eat more vegetables (and less meat in the process), I realized immediately I didn’t actually like or eat many kinds of vegetables. Some I hadn’t even tried. Ever. Things like bell peppers. Radishes. And mushrooms. And yet I hated them all. I made rash judgments on their taste without ever one of them passing my lips. I know. I had conviction.

This mushroom bourguignon is a whole ‘nother kind of conviction. The happy kind that welcomes new foods with open arms, spoon and fork in hand(s). It’s a typical Southern California fall day: nice and brisk in the morning, followed by beautiful sunny, and quite warm weather, followed by more cool weather. I grew up in New England and have lived through many a day below freezing, so that’s why I say cool instead of cold. Still, this weather throws me. I don’t know how to dress in the morning, for temperatures in the 40s, then 80s then 50s – all in one day. I will say though, as soon as that sun goes down and the temperature drops, I’m more than happy to enjoy a dish like this. It keeps me warm. It reminds me of home, the ethereal comfort of a place that’s changed so much, it’s hardly a geographic location anymore. It’s just a feeling. And a warm bowl of fusilli noodles draped with a couple spoonfuls of mushrooms and onions in a deep brown sauce, well that brings me home. And well yes, I suppose I’m standing in my kitchen, about to dive into a dish I made from scratch, with a glass of wine I picked out. I suppose I am home.

Sunny, quiet mornings

When life gets hectic and things seem like they’re getting out of hand, it’s nice to have a sunny, quiet morning to myself. Today was not one of those mornings, but I am looking forward to a weekend trip and the chance to just sit in the sun and ponder over my breakfast cereal :-)

Breakfast for dinner: french toast with berries

Since I’ve recovered from that awful bug, I’ve gone a bit overboard with my kitchen adventures. Rather than just cook my normal meals, I’ve been baking up a storm. I already have a handful of recipes that I’m looking forward to making again (and taking pictures of so I can post them on here). Really, I’ve gone a bit out of control. I even convinced myself that I could bake a loaf of soft, fluffy, yummy sandwich bread from scratch.

So I did. Err, well I tried. It was soft. It was yummy. It has a nice sweet fragrance even. But fluffy? Not. One. Bit. I’ve tried baking bread before and the illustrious fluff of good bread has always eluded me. When I took the pan out of the oven and saw that flattened sad excuse for sandwich bread, I got frustrated. I furrowed my brow, crossed my arms and pouted. Yes I pouted, my guy can vouch for me on that. He tried to cheer me up, and when it finally cooled, convinced me to taste a slice instead of tossing it directly in the trash. Yes I know, I was superbly dramatic. I can be so unreasonable when I’m pouty. Instead I cut a slice and spread some good butter on it and…

It wasn’t bad. No it was kinda good. Still dense, yes, but more than edible. It was more like a honey wheat quick bread, and it certainly didn’t warrant the trash. No,   this surprisingly enjoyable homemade bread deserved special treatment.

Oh yes. Who knew unsuccessful homemade sandwich bread would become very successful french toast. Add in some fresh berries that we picked up from the farmers’ market yesterday, yogurt and a drizzle of maple syrup, and we have the perfect breakfast for dinner. I even roasted some baby dutch potatoes for a nighttime take on home fries on the side (they didn’t last long enough for photo evidence, but not to worry, they’ll return to our plates soon enough). I’ll have to dedicate a post to this bread recipe once I’ve mastered its fluffiness, but for now here’s my take on french bread goodness (psst, it’s the cinnamon sugar and all the toppings!).

Cinnamon french toast with berries
Makes 4 slices

  • 4 slices of bread (homemade, artisan or otherwise)
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup almond milk
  • 1 Tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1-2 Tbsp of cinnamon sugar (I make my own with 2 parts sugar to 1 part ground cinnamon)
  • a handful of seasonal fresh berries
  • plain yogurt
  • maple syrup

Heat a pan on medium low. Crack the egg into a shallow bowl or flat Tupperware (I use the latter) and add the almond milk and cinnamon sugar. Beat until well incorporated. Soak a slice of bread in your french toast mixture on both sides for a few moments. Meanwhile, once the pan has gotten hot, melt half the butter in the pan. Place the first slice in the pan to start browning while you soak a second slice. Then toss that second slice in with the first (making sure to remember which one went in first so you know when to flip it). After 2-3 minutes or when browned, flip each slice over. When done, keep them warm on a heat-proof plate in the oven, with the oven set on low. Repeat the soak-and-brown with the remaining two slices of bread, and use the remaining half of the butter on the pan. Give your last slice of bread a little more time to soak, as there will be minimal french toast liquid to soak up. This amount yields almost the exact amount for four slices of thick bread, so let that fourth slice really enjoy the egg bath. Keep the french toast on the warming plate in the oven until ready to eat.

When ready to serve, spoon a dollop of yogurt on each bread and top with berries and a drizzle of maple syrup. Even if you aren’t a fan of plain yogurt, the berries and maple syrup really make this a sweet treat.

 

My first race (ever) recap!

[After what was meant to be a quick rest following my first 10K, I'm back! the 'rest' turned into more of an exhausting recovery after I contracted a stomach flu only three days after the event -- blechk! I'm doing much better now, but I'm overdue for an eventful recap!]

It’s official: I completed my first race and my first 10K! As you know, it was nerve-racking going into it, but when that Saturday morning arrived, I was suddenly PUMPED. Can I just say that I’m so happy I ran an event like Nike’s She Runs LA for my first race? There was so much going on and so much entertainment around us, it was the perfect choice for newbies and seasoned runner alike. It was great to get together with more than a thousand other people; the mood was infectious. Enter the ’80s theme: so many people were ridiculously decked out, so many of them put my radical duds to shame. With the neon attire, mismatched sweatbands and oh-so-classic side ponytail, my duds were radical. Truly, it was over the top.

Copyright 2012 iaminbalance

The day began with a Jane Fonda-style warm-up at the starting line. A good portion of the run was a straightaway on Melrose Ave. Along the route, all kinds of performances from a dance team doing “Thriller” to the local high school drumline to an ’80s rock cover band and even a gospel choir were peppered throughout the course. It gave me something to look forward to and gave me energy every time we passed one of these performances. Of course, running with my two friends for most of the distance kept me moving — I couldn’t have done it without them and they were so encouraging. Running with these ladies made it so much fun!

The hardest part came at the end (obviously…) when my friends and I slowly drifted away from each other, all running at different speeds. I was so tired. So tired. The last two miles were no longer straight, but a labyrinth of turns through the Paramount Studios backlot. Nike kept it up strong with well placed speakers playing “Chariots of Fire” in the last mile. As I turned the final corner and came in sight of the finish line, my body surged with that last shot of adrenaline as I sprinted to the end. When I crossed that finish line and heard my name over the loud speakers among the others who had finished around me, I felt nothing but relief. Pure, tired, happy relief. With only a week’s notice and preparation, I ran 6.2 miles. I did it!

Just happy that I finished! Copyright 2012 iaminbalance

From there, it felt like riding a rollercoaster after the big drop, just coasting on adrenaline and endorphins. When we finally looked at our surroundings, I realized we were square in the middle of a huge outdoor set of what looked like New York City. The finishers’ after party kept the entertainment coming w/ kareoke (on a treadmill no less), another ’80s cover band, photo booths and a costume contest.

I can’t explain the sound thought process behind this, but I decided to follow this active, tiring Saturday with an equally busy Sunday. It was the last weekend of the snowboarding season, so I found myself on a snow-covered summit with my guy and our buddy in mid-April. It’s been a remarkably warm winter, so when unexpected snow hit the mountain earlier in the week, we had to take advantage of it. Maybe I was still riding that 10K high in my mind or maybe it was the perfect spring conditions, but it was by far the best day of the season. I even got my snow bunny legs and did some jumps. :-)

I know what you’re thinking, and you’re right. If this is how I feel the day after a 10K, I should do this more often.

We did it! (photo c/o my fellow radical runner) Copyright 2012 iaminbalance