You gotta start somewhere

My half marathon training plan officially started today! (Actually, my augmented plan that includes more the just my three required runs per week started yesterday when I went to my first spinning class in over a year. It was tough, not because I got tired – my cardiovascular fitness is much better than it was a year ago – but because spinning works different muscles than running. My legs felt like jelly when the class was over!) The Disneyland half marathon is on 8/31 so I’ve got a long road ahead of me to be ready to run 13.1 miles by then, but I think I can do it over the next four months. My first training run tonight went really well. I only did 3 miles, but I averaged 11 minutes per mile, which is a faster pace than on my longer runs. I’m hoping to build up my stamina so that I’ll be sufficiently prepared when I start increasing my mileage. Eventually I’ll have to run 14 miles one Saturday a couple of weeks before the race. That seems like an almost impossibly long distance when I think about it. I must admit that I’m really nervous. I’m afraid of failing. In fact, I subconsciously tried to sabotage my run tonight. I was worried that it wouldn’t go well and that would put me in a bad frame of mind for my training program right from the start. It’s hard to come back from that kind of discouragement. I don’t bounce back from disappointment as easily as I’d like to. But I know that I’ll definitely have good runs, bad runs, and ugly runs throughout this process, and I’m fully prepared for that. Luckily tonight’s run was great, but I’m going to need some mental fortitude when I inevitably have a bad day. There will be bumps in the road to the half marathon in August, but it’s a journey I’m really looking forward to!

Blogging fatigue

I suck as a blogger recently, as I’m sure is painfully obvious. Quite often I sit down with my laptop to write a post, but I can’t come up with anything to say. Maybe it’s writer’s block? I don’t know. Many days I have several topics on my mind, but the bottleneck comes when I try to translate them into anything publishable. Actually, not just anything publishable, but anything at all. It’s embarrassing when I can’t even string together a single sentence! Putting that aside for a moment, one of the culprits for the reduced frequency of my blogging is my resolution to read every night before going to sleep. I’m doing pretty well fulfilling that resolution so far, and I’m OK with my blog suffering somewhat for that reason. And I’m also trying to reduce my TV time, especially my sedentary screen time, on weeknights. I’ve been limiting myself to one show each evening while parked on the couch. If I want to watch something else I have to be productive during that time – washing dishes, cleaning, paying bills, etc. I think this self-imposed rule has made me more active when I get home from work each day, which is good, but once again my blog suffers. I have a few changes in mind for my webpage going forward, but since it’s late I’ll save the details of those for another time. For now please accept my sincerest apologies for being an absentee blogger for the last month or so. Even if I don’t get back to posting every day I am definitely going to try to improve the quality of their content. We’ll see how that goes!

Foodie Friday – Chocolate chip cookies #43

Chocolate chip cookies #43: Based on Cookies and Cups’ Grapeseed Oil Chocolate Chip Cookies. Baked on 4/5/14.

After the great success of my olive oil chocolate chip cookies I wanted to try some other variations. So when I found a recipe for chocolate chip cookies that substituted grapeseed oil for butter I knew I had to try it. Grapeseed oil isn’t the cheapest thing you can buy at the grocery store, but I figured it would be worth it if the cookies turned out well. Unfortunately my first batch (following this recipe exactly) was dry. Really dry. The flavor was good, but it was hard to get past the dryness, so most of the cookies got thrown out. It was a shame. When I was mixing the dough I was worried that the recipe didn’t call for enough oil, and it seems I should have followed my instincts and added some more. I’m planning to use some of my leftover grapeseed oil to whip up another batch soon and see if I can improve the results. Like I did with the olive oil chocolate chip cookies, I think I’ll just replace the butter with grapeseed oil in my perfect chocolate chip cookie recipe. I’ll let you know how it turns out!

Another setback

I spent my weekend in flip flops because those are the only shoes I could wear comfortably at the time. This is due to some new running shoes I tried last Sunday that destroyed my feet and made putting on just about any shoes painful. That meant no running or even much walking for a while. It was incredibly frustrating. So how did this happen? I’ll tell you.

I took a personal day off from work the week before last because I had a few things I wanted to get done – specifically, get some new running shoes. My ankles hurt a bit after the Seal Beach 10K two weeks ago and the pain only got worse during my two runs following the race. I was convinced I needed new shoes because nothing I’ve tried so far has worked for me. Out of desperation I went to two different stores to get some options. The first place I went was the New Balance store at South Coast Plaza. Not that I’ve loved what I’ve purchased there so far, but being able to get running shoes in narrow widths is what keeps me going back. Wishful thinking, perhaps, but let’s move on. After explaining my problems the salesperson brought me a pair of their new Fresh Foam 980s. I wasn’t expecting much, but they felt really good when I tried them on and walked around a bit. And since they weren’t too expensive I bought them to at least try. I’ve already spent so much money looking for the right running shoes – what’s a little more? Maybe if I kiss enough frogs I’ll find my prince one day. And by “prince” I mean some shoes that don’t kill my feet when I run! But I digress. When I left the mall I went to Snail’s Pace, a running store in Fountain Valley, because I thought they would have many more options to alleviate my ankle pain. On my first visit there I got the Nike Zoom Structures that I absolutely hated so I was hoping for a different outcome this time. I explained my situation to yet another salesperson and he assured me that I need stability shoes to correct overpronation (despite my reservations). I tried on three different pairs and ultimately chose the Adidas Adistar Boost shoes.

To make a long story short, I ran six miles in them and they destroyed my feet (as I alluded to in the first paragraph). I didn’t even realize the extent of the damage until I put on the shoes again three days later. There’s a piece of plastic on the exterior of the heel for structure and stability that must have dug into my heel bone and bruised the hell out of it. It was so painful that I almost started crying when I tried running in them again. Those suckers are going back to Snail’s Pace this week for sure. As of this evening I think my feet are finally feeling good enough to try running again (in some different shoes, obviously), which is good news because I’m supposed to start my half marathon training plan soon. I will try the New Balance Fresh Foam shoes tomorrow and see how they work for me. One thing’s for sure, they can’t be worse than the Adidas!

Foodie Friday – Chocolate chip cookies #42

Chocolate chip cookies #42: Based on Cookies and Cups’ Soft Malted Chocolate Chip Cookies. Baked on 4/5/14.

Once again, I tried a fairly basic chocolate chip cookie recipe, but with one unique ingredient to mix things up. As much as I love a classic cookie, I’m always on the lookout for variations. How else would I have discovered coconut chocolate chip cookies or bacon chocolate chip cookies? And this time around the result was superb. Believe it or not, adding malted milk powder to chocolate chip cookie dough makes the cookies really delicious. The end result doesn’t taste like malted milk, but the powder gives the cookies a little extra flavor that they wouldn’t have had without it. The batch of malted milk chocolate chip cookies might have benefited from a tad less flour, but they were still extremely popular with my co-workers and friends. And since I’ve got quite a bit of malted milk powder left over, I will definitely be making these again soon!

P.S. I’m working on a more substantial post, but I haven’t finished it yet. Inspiration to write has been scarce lately, plus I’ve been trying to limit my computer time right before I go to sleep. I’m going to try and do better this week, but I won’t make any promises this time!

Resolution #2 revisited

As part of my 2014 resolution #2 I started taking Accutane on March 4th (one week after my surgery, as requested by my dermatologist) and so far my skin is looking better than it has in years. This is partially because I’ve only gotten two pimples in the last six weeks (although one of them happened to pop up right before I got my new driver’s license photo taken so that was fun), but also because I’ve been very diligent about my skin care regimen to ward off the side effects of the medication. The most common of these are dry skin and chapped lips, and I’ve definitely been experiencing both. My lips are constantly peeling so I apply balm frequently. It’s tons of fun. As far as the rest of my skin goes, I use a lot of lotion. Living in Los Angeles makes my skin pretty dry to begin with, but the Accutane has made it worse. My face gets two applications of moisturizing cream per day (one with SPF in the morning and a night cream in the evening), and the rest of my body gets a liberal layer of Vaseline Intensive Care Repairing Lotion after my shower. I started using that stuff years ago when I was working in DC and the winter weather there wreaked havoc on my poor skin. Vaseline has always been my favorite brand of lotion and the repairing variety is amazing. It’s not greasy (unlike the Eucerin lotion I tried a few weeks ago – yuck) and it absorbs overnight, making my skin feel great in the morning. But besides the run-of-the-mill dry skin I’ve been dealing with, I also have random little rashes in the weirdest places. Most notably, on the backs of my hands. My dermatologist said it was normal, though, and it’s gotten better with nightly applications of Aquaphor. Fortunately for now the side effects are manageable, and all of this will be worth it if I have clear skin at the end of the treatment. Actually, I’m already really happy with the results after only six weeks! But since Accutane is supposed to be a long term acne solution so it might be a while before I know how it works for me. The good news is that I haven’t I’ve had any of the other more worrisome side effects, like depression or headaches, so things are going well so far! Don’t worry, I’ll keep you posted on my future progress (whether you care about it or not!).