I haven’t written much about my running lately (probably a nice reprieve for the few loyal readers who stuck with me through my summer blogging drought), but that doesn’t mean there’s not a lot going on. In fact, I’ve been making great strides! (Pun intended.) As of today the Disneyland Half Marathon is five weeks away and I’m starting to get really nervous. But since I’ve been following my training program religiously, there shouldn’t be anything to worry about, right? I’m going to be 100% prepared to run 13.1 miles by the end of August. At least that’s what I keep telling myself. Fortunately my confidence was boosted quite a bit when I successfully completed an 11-mile run last Saturday. It was the first time I’d run double digit miles in one outing, and not too far off from actual half marathon distance either. That fact made me realize that crossing the finish line on August 31st without passing out right afterwards is a real possibility. If I feel anywhere near as good on race day as I did last Saturday then I’ll do just fine.
But the purpose of today’s post is to update the saga that is the search for my ideal running shoes. With as many different pairs as I’ve tried, I think the word “saga” isn’t too much of an exaggeration either. But anyway, about a week after getting my orthotics I had a follow-up appointment with my podiatrist to check their fit and comfort. Based on what I told him, he said I need some new running shoes. The orthotics are pretty substantial to counteract my overpronation, and that makes my shoes fit very poorly and my heels slip a lot with every stride. This is causing blisters when my foot rubs on the insole, and the only real solution is some shoes that are more compatible. Since my latest pair of New Balance running shoes caused me to develop tendonitis in my right foot from having to lace them so tightly, I was glad to replace them. Based on the doctor’s recommendation and some assistance from a local running store, I ordered some Brooks Adrenaline running shoes in a narrow width. They felt pretty good when I first tried them on, but they didn’t keep my heel from slipping, and they weren’t comfortable for running either. I wore them on two short runs before deciding they weren’t the shoes for me. Surprisingly, I found what seems to be the answer to my problems was already in my closet. Since the Nike Zoom Structures that I bought back in January are the only other pair of stability shoes I owned that I didn’t hate, I gave them another try. And believe it or not, they’ve been working. Even on my long runs. Unfortunately they aren’t much of an improvement in the area of heel slippage, but that doesn’t seem to be causing me too many ill effects. I don’t have any ankle pain, my tendonitis has mostly cleared up, and my blisters have been minimized. I’m surprised that these Nikes might be THE shoe I’ve been looking for, but I’ll reserve final judgment for a while. But not too long. Now that the half marathon is so close I need to decide whether I can survive 13.1 miles in these shoes. I have two more long runs in my training program so the state of my feet after each of those will be the deciding factor. Fingers (and toes) crossed!
Chocolate chip cookies #47: Based on Picky Palate’s Healthier Whole Wheat Chocolate Chip Cookies. Baked on 6/15/14.
Sometimes I think it’s a shame that I’ve devoted myself to finding the best chocolate chip cookie recipe rather than something healthier like stir-fried vegetables. Testing nearly fifty batches of veggies would certainly be more nourishing and less caloric, but not nearly as much fun as cookies! The next best thing to giving up my search is looking for a way to make chocolate chip cookies healthier. My first few attempts with coconut oil, grapeseed oil, or olive oil (recipe to come) have been very successful, but there are other aspects of the classic chocolate chip cookie that can be improved. So last month I bought a big bag of whole wheat flour and used this recipe to whip up a batch of whole wheat of chocolate chip cookies. I had read that when swapping whole wheat flour for all-purpose flour the substitution ratio shouldn’t be quite 1:1. So I was little nervous when the cookie recipe I tried had exactly that. I was skeptical, but I followed the recipe (except that I substituted butter for the coconut oil) and the results were amazing! I loved these cookies. They were maybe a little chewier than cookies made with all-purpose flour, but I thought they were great. I will definitely be making these again.
New Year’s Resolution #4: Wear shorts
It’s July and I’m finally getting around to working on one of my New Year’s resolutions. I’m nothing if not a procrastinator! I guess it was a little silly to make this particular resolution back in January when the possibility of wearing shorts was months away, but there’s a lot more to it than just fashion. Wearing shorts represents facing some of the insecurities I have about my body. Of course growing up in Florida I used to wear shorts almost exclusively from March to October, but since moving to California I don’t have as much use for them. The lovely SoCal weather makes shorts a choice rather than a necessity, like they are in hotter, more humid climates. These days I have a few pairs that I’ve purchased over the years, but I’ve basically only worn them on vacation (i.e., Hawaii in 2010 when the above photo was taken). I prefer to wear jeans whenever possible so those poor shorts have been languishing in a box under my bed for a long time. Since my weight has fluctuated more than I’d like to admit over the last 5 years or so, my collection of shorts contains pairs in three different sizes. One of my major insecurities is not being able to wear the size that I think my body should fit in to. What I never seem to remember is that the sizing paradigm for women’s clothing is completely arbitrary. So what if those size 2 cutoffs are a little tight in the waist? The size 4 khakis are slightly big and much more comfortable to wear these days. It’s just hard for me to admit that at any particular moment I’m not able to wear my smallest clothes. This is ridiculous! My body is still the same size, no matter what I wear. It just means I’m not willing to be uncomfortable for the sake of knowing there’s a smaller number on the tags hidden inside my clothes.
I’ve digressed a bit, but the purpose of this resolution was to confront some of my insecurities in the hopes of improving my self confidence. Fortunately running has been a means to an end in that respect. Not only has it helped me start to whip my body into shape, but it’s given me the chance to shake up my wardrobe a bit too. We’ve had some really hot days in Los Angeles already the year (much to my chagrin) so I broke down and bought a couple of pairs of compression shorts to wear running when it’s too hot for my capris. They are extremely short, like volleyball shorts or boyshort-type bikini bottoms, but that keeps them from riding up when I’m running. Needless to say, these shorts show a lot of leg, and I think I look good in them! Being able to say that and actually mean it is a big step forward for me. Usually I try and hide my body when I’m insecure so wearing something revealing makes me feel very vulnerable. But I know I need to keep working on feeling more comfortable in my own skin. Like this weekend when I wore shorts on both Saturday (khaki shorts when running errands) and Sunday (denim shorts at Disneyland). I think this might become the norm for the rest of the summer!
As of last Monday, Boeing on the Move is over. Woohoo! As excited as I was for it to start in June, I was just as glad for it to end. Not that it didn’t motivate me to be active, even more so than I have been since starting my half marathon training, but the truth is, I couldn’t stand my pedometer. The cheap plastic little gadgets that we got in the mail to track our daily steps were a real pain in the butt. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t have unrealistic expectations for a pedometer that I didn’t have to pay for, but it was flimsy, fell off a lot, and I felt dorky wearing it. It wasn’t exactly compatible with my wardrobe. Or anyone else’s, really. A few days before Boeing on the Move ended I made a list of nineteen things I hated about that stupid pedometer. I’ll spare you the details, but it’s so nice not having to remember to clip it to my jeans/yoga pants/pajamas every time I get dressed. Not only am I physically free of it, but I’m not constantly checking my step count and obsessively worrying about being too sedentary. Obviously getting up and moving more is beneficial to my health, but I’ve discovered that wearing a device that quantifies my activity level stresses me out more than it motivates me. And in the last year and a half of living by myself I’ve learned that I need to remove as many extraneous stressors from my life as possible in order to maximize my mental health. There are enough mandatory things in my to stress over (i.e., work, chores, bills) to add anything unnecessary to worry about. (Sadly, this also includes my webpage, which I’ve been neglecting recently, but that’s a topic for another time.) But before this post gets too philosophical, I’d like to report that I actually gave my pedometer quite a workout during Boeing on the Move! I averaged over 22k steps per day and almost reached one million steps by the end of the six-week program. And in addition to the payoff of my augmented exercise regimen, I earned a $100 Amazon gift card for my efforts! I’m definitely going to enjoy that. But I think the best news is that I’ve been maintaining my activity level even after setting aside the pedometer. That’s exactly the kind of thing I need to reduce stress and improve my outlook on life. No pedometer required, thank goodness!
Sunscreen experiment #11 – LaRoche-Posay Anthelios SPF 40 Sunscreen Cream
Last year two of the most successful sunscreens I tried were from the Anthelios line (see experiment #1 and experiment #5), so after a couple of failed experiments so far this summer I broke down and ordered some more products from their website. This time I went for a couple of the mineral sunscreen options. The Accutane I’ve been taking for a while has made my skin much more sensitive to the sun which I think is why I’ve gotten burned while wearing some other sunscreens. At this point I’ve decided that I should only rely on titanium dioxide or zinc oxide to protect my skin. Unfortunately the first new option I tried wasn’t that great. LaRoche-Posay Anthelios SPF 40 sunscreen is a cream rather than the liquid I like so much, but I figured I’d give it a try. Unfortunately, unlike the liquid varieties, it’s thick, a bit sticky, and very white. Anyone even slightly less pale than I am would look silly wearing it. And I discovered that this sunscreen is not sweat-friendly either. During a warm morning at Disneyland a couple of weeks ago my skin started to feel pretty gross. Strike this one off the list!
Sunscreen experiment #12 – LaRoche-Posay Anthelios SPF 50 Mineral Ultra Light Sunscreen Fluid
I think we may have a winner. Minerals? Check. Liquid? Check. Everything I’m looking for? Check! I first tried the LaRoche-Posay Anthelios SPF 50 Mineral Ultra Light Sunscreen Fluid when I ran the Huntington Beach July 4th 5K last week and it worked really well when the sun and heat started getting to me. Let’s face it, no sunscreen is ideal when you’re dripping sweat, but this stuff was actually bearable. I was impressed. And then, a couple of days later, I used this sunscreen to protect my arms during a sunny morning at Disneyland. It worked great! It felt light on my skin and it didn’t leave a pasty white layer on my skin. It’s perhaps slightly stickier than the non-mineral varieties, but still leaps and bounds more comfortable than anything else I’ve tried. The only downside is that the Anthelios brand comes with a hefty price tag (and it’s hard to find in stores), but I’m willing to pay (and order from the website) if it means almost perfect sun protection. Bring on summer days at Disneyland with this sunscreen! I won’t stop trying new products, of course, but at least I have a go-to sunscreen when I really need it!
On Friday my alarm went off at 5 AM. I was running the Huntington Beach July 4th 5K at 8 AM and I wanted to get there early so I parking wouldn’t be difficult. It was still dark when I got out of bed so I didn’t notice the pair of shoes that I left next to my closet the night before. Yes, I did indeed trip over them and fall on my face. Sheesh. I hit my right knee on the ground pretty hard so I laid on the ground for about 10 seconds assessing the damage. I thought to myself, “Am I hurt? What did I injure? Can I still run today?” Luckily I had just bruised the crap out of my knee (as of today it’s a lovely black and blue color) so my running wasn’t affected, but I still felt pretty stupid about nearly killing myself first thing in the morning. After picking myself up off the floor I threw on my running clothes, grabbed everything I needed, and headed down to Huntington Beach. I got there around 6 AM so parking was a snap! While waiting for the race to start I sat in my car, watched “Frozen” on my iPad, and ate my breakfast. Very relaxing. It had been 14 years since the last time I’d participated in the Huntington Beach July 4th race back in 2000. One of my roommates during my first Boeing internship asked me to go with her – I walked the 5K while she ran that year.
“Sarah and I got up at 5:30 AM (which is a half hour earlier than usual for those of you who don’t know what time I get up for work on weekdays). We left the apartment at 6 AM headed for Huntington Beach and the annual Fourth of July 5K race.”
7/4/00 diary entry
My only real goal for the day was to beat my previous 5K time – 34:03 from the Orange County 5K in May. That certainly wasn’t a lofty goal to begin with, but it wouldn’t be easy since it was a warm day. But despite missing the water station because it was crowded and having to take two short walk breaks because I pushed myself too hard, I still finished in 33:53! I only beat my old 5K time by 10 seconds, but I’ll take it. After the race was over I didn’t stay for the parade. It was hot and I felt pretty gross so I went home to take a shower. I fought laziness for quite a while, but then I realized I had to get up off the couch if I wanted to bake something for the party I was going to that afternoon. My first thought was to make chocolate chip cookies or pound cake, but one of my co-workers requested a chocolate dessert so I tried a recipe for dark chocolate brownies using Hershey’s Special Dark cocoa powder. Oh my goodness, they were so delicious! I ate way too many, but they were really yummy. I will have to make those brownies again soon and post the recipe too. As soon as the brownies were cool enough to cut I packed them up and took them to the July 4th party. Lots of friends, lots of fun, and lots of food. The perfect summer holiday. I went home before dark so I missed the majority of the fireworks, but it was still a great July 4th. And the best part was that I still had a whole weekend ahead of me! July 4th should be on a Friday every year.
I started running on July 5, 2013. It was a fairly insane whim born out of stir craziness after a few months of relative inactivity surrounding my surgery in June. But out of that insane whim was born a hobby/mini-obsession that has changed the way I define the word “challenge.” I’m not sure I’ve ever asked as much from myself as when I committed to training for a half marathon. I am not a natural runner – my body protests just about every time I run – but over the last year I’ve learned a lot about what I’m capable of. Last night I ran 9.5 miles. Can you believe it? That’s crazy! Never in a million years did I imagine that I’d be able to do that. And I actually felt pretty good when I was done! A little tired and slightly sore, but otherwise not too bad. I guess this training program I’ve been following is working so far. However, three weeks ago when I had to run 8 miles, with absolutely brutal results, I had a decidedly more negative opinion. That was the worst run I’ve ever had, by far. When I set out I was nervous because I’d never run more than about 6.5 miles before, but I thought I was pretty well prepared. I’d eaten a decent breakfast and lunch, and I’d had plenty of water during the day. Also, I took a handheld 10 oz water bottle with me since there weren’t any easily accessible water fountains on the route I had mapped out. Unfortunately it was still a miserable run. By mile three I was completely exhausted, but I was determined not to quit. So I dragged myself around Seal Beach until my Map My Run app told me I’d run 8 miles. That night I remember getting in bed and thinking, “I’m going to die.” I felt that horrible. Fortunately the next morning I was mostly recovered so I was able to meet some friends at Disneyland. Crisis averted, but I wasn’t exactly looking forward to running 7 miles the next weekend. Luckily, that run was much, much easier for some reason. Who knows exactly why (there are numerous possibilities), but I was very encouraged when I finished a 7-mile run feeling like I could keep going if I needed to. It made me think that I was making some serious progress towards half marathon distance. This was bolstered by how excited I was to hit 9.5 miles last night and still be on my feet. My feet and legs were definitely feeling the effects this morning, but relatively speaking, I was in good shape! I still have a long way to go before I’ll be ready to run 13.1 miles on 8/31, but I’m starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel. I’m starting to feel confident that I’ll actually be able to cross that finish line and not collapse right afterwards. One year ago I could barely run a half mile and look where I am now! It’s practically a miracle. Here’s hoping that the next year holds just as much progress, at least as far as running goes.
Chocolate chip cookies #46: Based on What’s Gaby Cooking’s Chocolate Butterscotch Caramel Blondies. Baked on 6/1/14.
First of all, I am perfectly aware that I’ve been an absentee blogger. Sorry about that. I’m going to do my best to write a few posts of substance over this holiday weekend. But for now, on to the cookies!
When I bought the chocolate covered sunflower seeds from Trader Joe’s for chocolate chip cookies #45, I also bought a bag of chocolate covered salted caramels. These aren’t quite as tempting to me as the sunflower seeds, but based on this recipe I found on Pinterest, they would be great in a cookie recipe. And they were! The cookie dough itself was very similar to my go-to recipe, but the chocolate chips were replaced by the chocolate covered caramels. I thought the caramels would make slicing the cookies difficult even after they had cooled completely, but they actually worked out great. The caramels made the cookies really rich and decadent, and they were a big hit with my co-workers. A very big hit! They were even more popular than the cookies with the chocolate covered sunflower seeds which I was crazy about. But the majority rules when it comes to chocolate chip cookies so I’ll definitely be making these again.