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My next big challenge

September 18th, 2014

So after I finished my first half marathon a couple of weeks ago my mom asked me what my next challenge was going to be. At the time I had no idea, but I think I’ve got something lined up now. Despite being fairly active since the beginning of the year, I haven’t been able to maintain any sort of weight loss. I actually joined a weight loss challenge in January with mixed results. My goal wasn’t to lose a lot of weight, but dropping 5 lbs would be fantastic. I started out somewhere around 123 lb and at one point in February I was down to about 120 lb. I was ecstatic! But then I had surgery, causing me to be sedentary for a while, and the numbers on the scale rebounded very quickly. How frustrating. Even after I started running regularly again in March, my weight wouldn’t budge. I dropped out of the weight loss challenge after six months because sharing my stats every week was more stressful than motivational. And as I’ve said, I try to avoid sources of unnecessary stress in my life. They just aren’t worth it. So I gave my scale the summer off and vowed to not weigh myself again until after the Labor Day weekend. What incredible freedom! I ate what I thought was necessary in order to keep up with my half marathon training program, including a few days of major indulgence before my longest runs. The only measure of my body’s size was my clothes. On the morning of the Disneyland Half Marathon, the last thing I was worried about was my weight. I was happier to cross the finish line that day than to see a low number on the scale. The day after the race I tentatively got back on the scale after a three-month hiatus. It read 121.9 lb. I was skeptical of this number, however, since I’d just completed a grueling 13.1 mile run and I was sure I had lost a lot of water weight. The good news is that a week later when I got back from DC (where I ate a lot and didn’t exercise) I weighed exactly the same. Maybe it was real weight loss! Or not. A few days later I was 126.3. Two days after that I was 123.9. And then the next day I was 122.1. My body is so weird.

So what could I do to try and jump start some consistent weight loss/maintenance? After doing some research and talking to some friends and co-workers, I decided to try eliminating grains from my diet. It’s not technically low carb (I still need starches for running fuel) and it’s not strictly Paleo (I’m still eating dairy and potatoes), but I think it’s the first step towards keeping my weight on a more even keel. This means I can’t have any bread, cookies, crackers, rice, or pasta. It seems restrictive when it’s put that way, but I’ve been told I won’t miss the grains after a while. We’ll see about that. I definitely have to put more thought into my meals now and it will require me to start cooking more often. I’ve been lazy in that respect this year, but last night I slow cooked some chicken and roasted some carrots and green beans to take to work for my lunches. This will have to become a regular occurrence. Do you realize how difficult it is to find a grain-free meal at any kind of restaurant? I had a great breakfast of scrambled eggs, sausage, and potatoes at Disneyland last Sunday morning, but your average eatery doesn’t have much that’s not served on a bun. So I started my grain-free journey this week and so far I feel great! Grains aren’t completely absent from my diet yet (I had a box of Frosted Mini Wheats in the cupboard that I didn’t want to go to waste), but I’m getting there. I know this sounds vain, but my ultimate goal is to be able to wear a couple of pairs of jeans I bought back in 2012 that are too tight at the moment. Of course I want my body to be healthy and to fuel it for the long runs I’ve got coming up later this year, but comfortably zipping up those jeans would make me feel even more amazing! I’ll let you know how it goes.

Not missing out this year

September 15th, 2014

“Back in September I saw a ceramic pumpkin luminary that I loved at Pottery Barn, but by the time I got back from my month in Florida it was sold out. So I missed out on that this year.”
11/09/13 webpage post

I have a confession: I’ve already decorated my apartment for Halloween. It’s not anywhere near the scale of my Christmas decorations (no tree, obviously), and I usually wait until October 1st to put them up, but I decided that I want to enjoy my Halloween items for longer than usual this year. The weather is unrelentingly summer here in Los Angeles, so the fall décor reminds me that cooler weather will be here eventually. (As far as I’m concerned, fall can’t come soon enough.) The funny thing is, before Halloween last year I only had one item to decorate with, and that was Witch Duck. I love Witch Duck dearly, but Halloween needs more celebration than that in my apartment. So in early November I bought a couple of things on sale online in preparation for Halloween 2014. Like the Peanuts set in the above photo. Isn’t is great? “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown” is my favorite Halloween tradition so I was happy to find this adorable set at Macy’s. Regarding the quote from my 11/9/13 webpage post, as soon as I saw the pumpkin luminaries appear in the Pottery Barn catalogs again I bought two of them. No way I was going to miss out on them again this year! I don’t have a good photo of them yet since I haven’t bought any battery-operated candles to go inside, but I’ll get around to that soon. Another thing I missed out on last year was getting a set of Halloween-themed Minnie Mouse ears at Disneyland. I should have bought them at Disney World last September/October when I was working at Cape Canaveral, but I figured there was plenty of time to pick them up when I got back to California. I was wrong. By mid-October the orange and black spiderweb design ears that I wanted were nowhere to be found in Disneyland. So this year when I saw the Halloween items first appear in the park shops I bought a pair immediately. Yet another thing I wasn’t going to miss out on this year. Now if only some cooler weather would come along then it would really feel like Halloween is approaching!

Sunday Runday – Half marathon #1 complete

September 14th, 2014

On the morning of August 31st I woke up at 2:45 AM to get ready for the Disneyland Half Marathon. My parents and I had to leave my place at 3:30 AM to drive to Anaheim so I gave myself just enough time to get dressed, make a smoothie, grab the necessary items, and walk out the door. I was afraid that getting into the Disneyland parking structure would be a mess if we arrived any later than 4 AM, but luckily it turned out to be a breeze. I had saved braiding my hair, slathering on sunscreen (which seemed counterintuitive before dawn, but I knew I would need it later), and even putting on my running shoes until we arrived at Disneyland that morning. I was incredibly nervous. I was pretty sure I’d cross the finish line under my own power, but remembering how horrible I’d felt during my 14-mile run a couple of weeks early didn’t make me feel any better. Based on the fact that I hadn’t provided a proof of time (I missed the deadline) I was going to be one of the last people to cross the start line. That was unfortunate, not just because I had to stand in my corral doing nothing for more than an hour (starting at about 5:15 AM), but because the sun was already up before I started running. It was already really humid that morning and the appearance of the sun was only going to cause the marginally comfortable weather to deteriorate. I crossed the start line around 6:30 AM. The first part of the half marathon runs through California Adventure and then Disneyland. That was cool. Going through Sleeping Beauty’s Castle was pretty awesome, despite having to walk that portion due to the large crowd trying to squeeze through a relatively narrow passage. I didn’t stop and take any pictures with Disney characters during the race because I didn’t want to lose momentum (and because I’m no good at selfies), but I did see my parents on Main Street in Disneyland. It was very encouraging to have them there cheering me on. Taking on my first half marathon was nerve-racking enough – imagine if I’d had to do it alone! I was feeling great upon leaving the Disney parks at mile 4, and that feeling continued for a few more miles. I started to fade around mile 6, though. Up until then I’d only been getting water at the aid stations to avoid the nausea that I suspected was caused by the sugar and artificial sweeteners in the sports drinks and energy supplements I’d tried, but I realized that I needed something more. So I started grabbing Powerade at the aid stations instead. That helped, and I kept running along the streets of Anaheim. A little after mile 9 the course went through Angel Stadium, which is another cool venue to run through. But when I emerged on the other side, right at mile 10, the sun emerged from the clouds for good. That was bad news. It got really hot after that and I started feeling tired and slightly sick to my stomach. The combination of Powerade and heat was a killer in my case, I think. I walked a lot during those last three miles so I was extremely happy when I saw the mile 13 marker because I knew I was nearly done. I ran across the finish line faster than I should have because it made me feel ill, but I was so thrilled to have completed the race. My first half marathon, and definitely not my last. It won’t be long until I have another half marathon medal to hang next to the one I earned at the Disneyland Half Marathon!

Foodie Friday – Chocolate chip cookies #49

September 12th, 2014

Chocolate chip cookies #49: Based on Two Peas and Their Pod’s Whole Wheat Toasted Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies. Baked on 7/20/14 and 9/1/14.

Geez, I’m a terrible blogger. Despite this past week being the quietest I’ve had in months, I still haven’t been able to compose a webpage post. How pathetic! Fortunately it’s the weekend so I’ll try to make more time for writing over the next two days. But for now, here’s a chocolate chip cookie review.

I’ll bet you’re wondering where chocolate chip cookie recipe #48 went, right? Well, I’ll get back to that one later because I need to make another batch before I can render a verdict. So I’m skipping ahead to these toasted oatmeal chocolate chip cookies. The first time I made these they weren’t a complete success because I made some mistakes. First of all, I only toasted half the amount of oatmeal that I needed. Then, without thinking, I dumped the first half of the toasted oatmeal in with the rest of the dough before toasting the second half. Oops. That first batch of oatmeal sat in the bowl absorbing moisture for 15 minutes or more before I was ready to bake the cookies. Not ideal. I thought that might have been the reason that a weird sort of crust formed on the top during baking that made for quite a bit of difficulty when I tried to slice the cookie bars. So while my parents were visiting over the Labor Day weekend I made another batch to see if I could improve the results. And I did…marginally. Don’t get me wrong, these cookies tasted really good (and my co-workers on both the East and West coasts enjoyed them), and the flavor of the toasted oatmeal was great, but I think it was a bit too dry. It seems you can’t do a straight substitution of toasted oatmeal for untoasted oatmeal in without making a few other changes. I think maybe a little more butter would help. I’ll make another batch of these cookies sometime and see if that idea works.

After crossing the finish line

September 8th, 2014

Sunday Runday – Post-race running

September 7th, 2014

When I found out that I’d be travelling to DC for work right after the Disneyland Half Marathon, I knew I wanted to stay at a hotel with a decent fitness center. Most places only have one treadmill in their sorry excuses for hotel gyms, but one I’ve stayed in before has a refreshingly large room full of cardio equipment instead. So I booked a reservation there for my trip so that I’d be able to keep up with my running even after completing my half marathon goal. The best laid plans, right? Of course I had great intentions, but when it came down to it, I wasn’t able to follow though. I packed my running shoes, workout clothes, and even the Disneyland Half Marathon headband that my parents bought me, but unfortunately I got back home with all of them unworn. I flew to DC early on Tuesday morning (6 AM flight) and arrived in the early afternoon. I went directly to work, without even getting lunch or checking into my hotel because I had a lot of work to do before the next morning. Unfortunately it turned out to be four hours of work. I wanted to run 3 miles on the treadmill that night (since it was way too hot to run outside), but I didn’t get to my hotel until about 10 PM and I was exhausted. Since I had to get up at 5 AM the next morning to go to work, I decided to get right in the shower and go to bed instead of running first. My first post-race run could wait. The next day was extremely stressful and I ended up working 12 hours without any sort of a break. My lunch was a banana and a Fiber One bar. On my way back to my hotel I went to Target, grabbed a ham and turkey wrap and a Greek yogurt, and was barely able to wait until I got back to my room before scarfing them down. I was on the verge of passing out at that point and my alarm was set for 5 AM again, so another night passed without a run. And then another one, since Thursday was almost exactly like Wednesday. At that point I realized that I hadn’t gotten a full night’s sleep in about six weeks. I felt awful. So on Friday morning I slept in until 8 AM. It was glorious. I finished up my business trip by working a few hours, grabbing a bite to eat, and then catching my flight back to LA. While I’m not happy about missing two runs while I was out of town, the work portion of my trip was very successful. One thing at a time, I guess. My Avengers Half Marathon training starts on Tuesday!

Update (re: soda)

September 5th, 2014

I’m on my flight back to LA now, but it took off about an hour and a half late. I was supposed to land at LAX just after 8 PM, but it will be even later now. Luckily the only thing I was planning to do when I got home was go to sleep, but I was hoping that would happen at a reasonable hour. But rather than worrying about it, especially since there’s nothing I can do to make the plan go faster, I’ll write the webpage post that I’ve been meaning to get around to all week. I’ll have to publish it when I get home since this flight doesn’t have WiFi.

It’s been so long since I posted anything that you might have suspected that the Disneyland Half Marathon killed me, but rumors of my demise have been greatly exaggerated! I know I’ve really been neglecting my webpage over the last week, but of course I’m planning to write about the race soon. But before I get to that I have a few updates I’d like to share. Not only will this get the things out of my head that have been bouncing around in there for a while, but it will also give me some time to write a decent post about the race. But back to the other updates for now. I wrote a couple of weeks ago about giving up soda to try and improve my running. I’m pleased to say that between then and the race last Sunday I only had one can of caffeine free Coke Zero, and even then only in half-can amounts. The first few days were really rough, though. There was no denying my status as an addict. I craved Coca Cola morning, noon, and night. It was awful. But finally after about a week the urge to crack open a soda with every meal finally abated. What freedom! My water intake had increased after removing fizzy drinks from my diet, and I was no longer ingesting large numbers of calories with every sip. It was a very good thing, indeed. I can’t say definitively that banishing soda from my life helped my running, though. The only real data point that I have is the half marathon itself, and while I felt pretty good during the race (most of it, anyway), I don’t know if that was due to flushing my system of liquid sugar and sugar substitutes. However, since I felt orders of magnitude better during the half marathon than I did during my disastrous 14-mile run, then it was definitely not a bad thing. Of course, limiting my soda intake is a good idea for numerous other reasons, but my enjoyment of running is really my utmost priority. (Maybe it should be my overall health, but honestly, preventing horrible experiences like my 14-mile run is my more immediate concern.)

I must admit that I’ve fallen off the wagon in the last week. I’ve had a handful of sodas or so since crossing the half marathon finish line, but surprisingly, I haven’t enjoyed them very much. Although, the bottle of Coke that I drank on Sunday after the race tasted amazing. But besides that, the sugary beverages don’t seem to have the same power over me as they did before. Even after giving in to my favorite cherry vanilla Coke at Firehouse Subs in DC this past week, I still don’t crave a soda with my meals. This is pretty amazing, considering how strongly I used to associate an Egg McMuffin from McDonald’s with the taste of Coca Cola. It was like a Pavlovian response after a while. Now I just grab another bottle of water and eat my egg sandwich minus all the extra sugar. My body is definitely thanking me. While I’m not willing to give up soda completely (weekends are for indulging, obviously), I’m hoping I’ll be able to jump start some modest weight loss by minimizing this particular dietary luxury. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Ready for Sunday!

August 28th, 2014

Monday confessions

August 25th, 2014

Confession #1: Last night I drove to work just so I could take a shower at the gym. I know it sounds silly, but I did this for two reasons: 1) I had just finished cleaning the bathroom and it seemed like a shame to undo any of my work so quickly, and 2) The water pressure in my shower is ridiculously low. It’s been getting worse recently and I finally called my landlady about it last night. Fortunately, I live close to work so I could just drive over there for a quick shower. And it was glorious!

Confession #2: I was planning to skip my spinning class this evening. Call me lazy, but I’ve still got a lot of stuff to do before my parents arrive on Wednesday. This afternoon I was going to clean my kitchen and go to the laundromat to wash towels, but those best laid plans had to be set aside when a plumber was working at my apartment when I got home. So I got right back in my car and went to the gym for spinning. Of course I’m glad I got a good workout today, but I also got to a guaranteed good shower at the gym. It turns out that the plumbers visit didn’t help the water pressure at all so it’s a good thing I didn’t bank on showering at home tonight. My landlady said she would fix the problem tomorrow. I hope so, or else I’ll have to drive my sweaty self to the gym for a shower after my run!

Sunday Runday – In the home stretch

August 24th, 2014

Last night I decided to go for a run. Since I was still feeling fairly sick I didn’t know if it was a good idea or not, but I was unwilling to miss more than one training run with the half marathon right around the corner. (And I missed out on watching the “Doctor Who” series 8 premiere live, but I figured the run was worth it.) As I got started I told myself that I could stop and walk at any point if I didn’t feel right. The last thing I wanted to do was exacerbate my illness. I was a little worried when I got started because my throat felt tight, but otherwise I felt great! Better than I’d felt running in a long time. What a relief! It was one of those rare times when I felt like I could run forever. I finished 4 miles without stopping, which is unusual for me, and I didn’t really want to stop! If I feel anywhere near that good next Sunday (one week from now – eek!) then I’ll be in good shape.

Besides my last few training runs, I’ve got a few other Disneyland Half Marathon preparations in progress. This afternoon I started cleaning my apartment in anticipation of my parent’s arrival on Wednesday. My bathroom is now spotless. I’ll finish cleaning everything else over the next two evenings, along with washing a load of towels at the laundromat. Really exciting stuff, huh? But I didn’t spend my entire day doing chores. This morning I finally went to see “Guardians of the Galaxy,” and then I came home and watched the “Doctor Who” premiere. The movie was a lot of fun (but not as good as the last few Marvel movies I’ve seen), and I really enjoyed Doctor Who. It was a great introduction to Peter Capaldi as the 12th Doctor, and I can’t wait for the rest of the season. But now it’s time for me to start getting ready for bed. It’s going to be another crazy week at work, but at least my cold is improving. Only one more week until the half marathon!