End of October

My blogging has been sparse this month. Sorry about that. My only excuse is that the last three months of the year are my favorite so I have been trying to enjoy October as much as possible before it’s over. But I haven’t really succeeded because I’ve been working a lot too. That doesn’t exactly lend itself to having fun. These last 31 days have been incredibly busy! I mostly blame myself for that. I signed up for an insane number of races this month (as well as in November and December, but that’s a story for another time) because I wanted to run as much as possible as soon as the seemingly endless summer was over. Granted, “fall” is just barely arriving here in Los Angeles now. The Long Beach half marathon on October 11th was miserably hot. I’ll write another post about that later. For a couple of reasons (but mostly laziness) I’ve been saving a lot of the topics I want to blog about for November so I can attempt National Blog Posting Month (NaBloPoMo). It’s not going to be easy, but I will try to update my webpage every day in November. Last year was a miserable failure so we’ll see if I can redeem myself in 2015. Until then I’m going to do my best to enjoy what’s left of October. Happy Halloween everyone!

July 4th 2015

“After the races (yes there were several) were over Sarah and I stayed for the parade. Boeing had a float in the procession and we just wanted to see it before we left. The parade started at 10 AM. The sun came out. Two and half hours later the Boeing float lumbered towards us. By that time our rear ends were screaming at us, the sun had burned our exposed skin (even after we applied sunscreen that one woman was kind enough to give us), and at least half of the parade viewers had left. The float was pretty impressive but it was unfortunate for both us and them considering that it was the 315th entry.”
7/4/00 webpage post

Fifteen years ago I participated in the Huntington Beach July 4th 5K for the first time. I was years away from becoming a runner, but my roommate talked me into it. I walked it while she ran, and then we stayed for the parade where we got sunburned. Oops! Luckily by 2015 I was slightly more prepared for the event. There are actually two 5Ks in Huntington Beach every July 4th – one for HB residents and one that’s open to anyone an hour later. I was registered for the open 5K that started at 8 AM. However, in order to increase my weekend mileage I decided to run both races. I realize this is frowned upon in the running community, but I didn’t feel too guilty because the July 4th 5Ks don’t give out finisher medals so the only thing I really got for free was an extra bottle of water. Funny enough, the whole thing was actually free because Boeing was a sponsor so I didn’t have to pay an entry fee at all. Bonus! It was warmer than I would have liked that morning, but at least it was cloudy. Summer hadn’t quite set in yet, but it was close. (And as of mid-October the end date is still to be determined. Ugh.) I enjoyed both of the 5Ks even though I wasn’t exactly speedy in either one. It felt good to get 6.2 miles of running done before 9 AM! On my way home I grabbed a late breakfast at McDonald’s to celebrate as part of my usual post-race ritual. I was invited to a Fourth of July party at a friend’s house that evening and I had promised to bring food. Luckily I had taken advantage of having July 3rd off from work and did all of the cooking and baking then. I was tired after the 5Ks so I actually took a nap! Gotta love holidays. The party was a lot of fun that evening. I took a Crockpot full of chili and two kinds of pound cake with me to share. I spent a lot of time chasing kids around and also being chased around by them as well. At one point I was a Wicked Queen and got locked in a dungeon as punishment. It was a blast. Before the night was over we set off a bunch of fireworks in the driveway, much to the delight of the kids. It was classic ending to a lovely Fourth of July celebration.

Disney World (January 2015) – Part 2

The morning of January 10th we were once again waiting in line for a bus at about 3 AM. It was 45 deg that morning too, but we had a harder time finding place to stay warm before the half marathon started at 5:30 AM. It was pretty miserable. My mom had loaned me an old jacket and I brought a pair of gloves, but they weren’t enough to keep me from shivering for hours before the race started. Unfortunately my knee was hurting before the race started too. It hadn’t bothered me at all during the 10K the day but I think the combination of the cold and standing for hours prior to the race really screwed something up. (A few months and quite a lot of frustration later, and after a doctor’s appointment and several visits to a sports chiropractor, I discovered that the problem was not actually my knee at all. It was my IT band. That knowledge helped me get back into running and manage the symptoms better. But that’s a story for another time!) The half marathon was rough. Not only was I freezing most of the time (I could not wait for the sun to come up) and I was in a lot of pain. But I still enjoyed running through the Magic Kingdom and EPCOT, and my time wasn’t that bad either. I can only imagine how much faster I would have been if I hadn’t walked so much due to my knee. After the race was over my parents and I dragged ourselves back to the Coronado Springs Resort to shower, change, and grab a very late breakfast. We barely made it to the food court before they shut down to prepare for lunch. That egg sandwich tasted amazing after my half marathon! The three of us didn’t do much else that day because we were completely exhausted from two way too early mornings, but we did have a delicious dinner at Maya Grill that night to celebrate my birthday.

The 11th was my last full day in Orlando so we decided to spend it at Universal Studios. Back in 2011 we visited the Wizarding World of Harry Potter for the first time and absolutely loved it. Since then Universal has added a whole new themed section in their Islands of Adventure park so my parents and I absolutely had to go see it. It was raining that morning as we got to the parks so we bought some ponchos and made the best of it. (One of my friends was running the Disney World marathon that morning so it was a lot tougher for her!) The parks weren’t crowded so we really got to see everything in both of the Harry Potter areas, including the Hogwarts Express train which transports guests between them. It was so much fun. I particularly enjoyed the giant dragon on top of Gringotts Bank that breathes fire every 10 minutes. Everything about it was so well done that you feel like you’re in the movies. Pretty amazing. Besides the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, not much else at Universal Studios is worth seeing these days. A lot of the rides are really dated, the tickets are outrageously expensive, and the merchandise leaves something to be desired. I think I’ve been spoiled by years of Disneyland on my annual pass! On January 12th I had to fly back to Los Angeles, but I took two new medals and a sense of accomplishment home with me. Despite my injured knee I had successfully completed two races at Disney World. It was the perfect birthday vacation.

Foodie Friday – Chocolate chip cookies #37 revisited

When we were in Alaska in August my family and I stayed at Tonglen Lake Lodge. It’s a beautiful spot that’s fairly close to the entrance to Denali National Park. Since there is no place to get food inside the park we got a lot of our lunches to go from the lodge’s café. This is when I discovered their absolutely amazing chocolate chip cookies. They were rich and flavorful with crispy edges and chewy middles. I couldn’t believe how delicious they were. Of course I was a bit jealous because I’ve been working on my chocolate chip cookie recipe for several years now and I haven’t made anything quite that good yet. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve made some great cookies, but after tasting those chocolate chip cookies in Alaska I realized there was still progress to be made. One morning I asked the baker what her secret was. I didn’t know how much she would want to divulge, but I figured I had to ask. Luckily she was very forthcoming. I didn’t get an exact recipe, but she gave me a lot of tips. In my defense, I’ve already tried a lot of things that she told me. Lots of butter, of course (although I’ve made really tasty cookies with olive oil or coconut oil instead), a mix of white and brown sugar, and a combination of chocolate chips. On top of that I garnered two additional important tips – 1) omit the vanilla extract, and 2) add molasses. The funny thing is, I actually made molasses chocolate chip cookies back in 2013 (recipe #37), but the result wasn’t anything special.

“The original recipe called for white sugar in the cookie dough, but I figured the molasses flavor would be much more pronounced if I used brown sugar instead. Just call me a chocolate chip cookie rebel! But I was right. The molasses flavor was definitely pronounced with this substitution. That’s probably why the original recipe used white sugar. Don’t get me wrong, I liked these cookies, but the molasses was just a tiny bit too strong for me.”
11/29/13 webpage post

A few weeks ago while watching a Florida football game I decided to revisit molasses chocolate chip cookies to see if I could replicate the cookies I loved so much in Alaska. I started with the same base recipe – Framed Cooks’ Molasses Chocolate Chunk Cookies – but made a few changes. First of all, I used white sugar instead of brown. This made the cookies a little lighter and dialed down the molasses flavor a bit. Second, I left out the vanilla extract. As much as I love vanilla, it might not work in this recipe. And last, I used just 2 Tbsp of molasses in a small batch of cookies (an 8×8″ pan). The goal was to have the molasses enhance the cookies without overwhelming them. And I think it worked. These cookies definitely tasted a lot like the ones I had Alaska (and my co-workers gobbled them us, as usual), but there was something missing. I think it’s the texture. I am planning to try this recipe again, maybe which watching football this weekend, but make drop cookies instead of bars. The crispy edges of the cookies might be the key to their deliciousness. It means more work for me, but hopefully the payoff will be worth it!

Finally running Long Beach

“We’d had a lot of things going on at work since the beginning of October and I was scheduled to work last Saturday, but fortunately I was supposed to have a day off on Sunday. Perfect, right? Unfortunately things started to unravel on Friday night when I got called in to work at 8 PM for a couple of hours (even though it was supposed to be my day off). However, I still managed to get to the expo on Saturday before work to pick up my race bib and t-shirt, and I even laid out all of my clothes for the 5K so I’d be ready to go quickly the next morning. Then my Saturday shift at work turned out to be much more difficult than I expected, and I didn’t get home until after 10 PM. That might have been reason enough to skip the 5K the next morning, but more compelling was the fact that I had to be at work at 8 AM (despite originally having Sunday off) when the race didn’t start until 8:30 AM.”
10/17/14 webpage post

Last year I was registered for the Long Beach 5K on October 12th, but for the reasons detailed in the above quote I didn’t get to run it. It was unavoidable, but I was definitely disappointed. This year I decided I was going to make up for it. So in December when registration for the 2015 Long Beach races opened I immediately signed up for the half marathon on October 11th. I’d walked the half marathon back in 2011, but this will be my first time running it. And then in March it was announced that the 5K was being held on October 10th so I had a chance to participate in it as well. When did I ever pass up a race? So this coming weekend I’ve got a 5K on Saturday morning and a half marathon on Sunday morning. Crazy? Not really. After successfully completing three Disney challenges (10K + half marathon on successive days) this should be totally doable, but unfortunately I’ve got a few cards stacked against me this time. First of all, the weather is going to be terrible. After getting a tiny taste of fall recently (it rained and the high was only in the low 70s on Sunday), it’s forecasted to be back in the 90s this weekend. We’ve already had a scorcher of a summer in Los Angeles, made more uncomfortable by the fact that I don’t have air conditioning at home, and by all rights we should be reaping the benefits of fall by now! It’s so frustrating. Running a half marathon is tough enough for me without the added difficulty of oppressive heat. Yesterday we got a bit of good news on that front, though. The half marathon was supposed to start at 7:30 AM on Sunday, but participants were informed that we could start the race at 6 AM with the full marathoners if we wanted to. That’s going to help a lot. You know you’re a runner when starting a race earlier in the morning makes you ridiculously happy. I might have bigger problems, though, because I have a cold. I woke up yesterday morning with a sore throat which was really frustrating. Then this morning I felt terrible so I stayed home from work to rest. I stayed in bed all morning, and then dragged myself downstairs to the couch and slept there all afternoon. When I woke up at 4 PM I felt much better. Not perfect, but definitely on the mend. I considered going for a short run this evening since I missed my planned training run yesterday, but then I realized that it wasn’t wise to push myself too much while I’m recovering. I’ll reassess my status tomorrow night. Hopefully by the time the weekend rolls around I’ll be feeling mostly healthy again. Not that I’m going to be performing at my peak anyway due to the heat, but I’d like to avoid a poor showing during the races!

Disney World (January 2015) – Part 1

In an effort to catch up with all of the major things that have happened in 2015 (and to try and satisfy my New Year’s resolution #4), I’m going all the way back to the beginning of the year to write about my trip to Orlando in January. I figured I really needed to finally document that trip before I head back there for the Wine and Dine Half Marathon at Walt Disney World next month!

My parents joined me in Orlando for the 2015 Disney World Marathon Weekend (1/7-1/11) when I was running the 10K and half marathon. We stayed at the Coronado Springs Resort which turned out to be pretty nice. The room was basic enough, but all of the buildings are situated around a lake. We had a little bit of a walk to get breakfast at the food court every morning, but at least the lake made for a lovely route. And it was a bit chilly in Orlando that week which was both good and bad. The day before the 10K we went to the race expo at the Wide World of Sports complex and picked up my shirts and bibs for the two events. I was distressed to discover that the race pins I thought I’d ordered (and even had email receipts for) had gone awry during the registration process. Luckily I was able to buy them at the expo, but only after looking in three different places. We spent the afternoon wandering around Downtown Disney (which has been renamed to Disney Springs since then) and had dinner at Wolfgang Puck’s Grand Café. A nice pasta dinner before my first race.

The next day was my 36th birthday and we started the celebration by getting up at 2:30 AM to catch the bus to the 10K start line. Doesn’t that sound fun? Believe it or not, I was thrilled to be running a race on my birthday. And despite the fact that it was 45 deg that morning (we hunkered down in one of the event tents to stay warm before the race started), the experience was fantastic. Running through EPCOT was so much fun. My time was nothing to brag about, but I felt great. It was one of those runs that was almost effortless. That doesn’t happen to me very often so I was grateful for such a memorable run on my birthday. After I crossed the finish line my parents and I took the bus back to our hotel, showered and changed, and grabbed a late breakfast. To finish my birthday celebration we went to Disney’s Animal Kingdom Park since I’d never been there before. It was cold and there was a lot of construction going on at the park, but we still had a good time. The Expedition Everest ride is so awesome! I’d go back just for that. And we had a surprisingly good dinner at the Yak & Yeti restaurant. That night we were all tired from getting up way before the crack of dawn so we went to bed early – especially since we had to repeat the same process again the next morning for my second race.

To be continued!

PJJ Maui (Part 3)

The last few days I spent in Hawaii were a bit less structured than the beginning of the trip. The morning of June 26th we all woke up to the news that the US Supreme Court had struck down all bans on same-sex marriage. We were all thrilled! It was really funny sitting around the breakfast table with everyone on their phones, reading about the historic decision, adding the rainbow overlay to our Facebook profile photos, and blocking or unfriending anyone who posted anything disparaging about it. It was so nice to be in a group of like-minded people that morning. We spent most of the day relaxing in our amazing beachside mansion. Some of the ladies unfortunately had to fly home that night so we seized the opportunity to take a bunch of group photos before anyone left. As you can see in the above photo, we even had matching PJJ Maui t-shirts! (I guess I should take a moment to explain that “PJJ” stands for “Pajama Jammy Jam.” We just moved our pajama party to Hawaii and extended it into a week!)

On my last full day on Maui a few of us decided to try to catch the sunrise at Haleakala again, hopefully without the truck convoy (or the associated observatory construction protest) getting in our way this time. (See PJJ Maui (Part 2) for more details.) So we got up at 2 AM to drive to the summit for the festivities. Fortunately the trip was uneventful that morning and our quest was successful! It felt a little strange wearing pants and jackets and packing a bunch of blankets for anything in Hawaii, but it was worth it in the 40 deg weather at the top of Haleakala. And the sunrise was indeed beautiful. I didn’t get any good photos myself, but I loved seeing it in person. On our way back to the house we stopped at a French bakery that’s pretty much in the middle of nowhere and had an absolutely delicious breakfast of quiche and pastries. It was amazing. After that we spent the majority of our day swimming in the ocean and the mansion’s swimming pool. Ladies of leisure! Our numbers dwindled even more that afternoon/evening as more folks hopped flights back to their hometowns. In conjunction with a few airport drop-offs that day we indulged in some Hawaiian shave ice, visited a sugar museum, and stopped briefly at McDonald’s to take pictures of their “Aloha” and “Mahalo” signs. We are classy broads.

I reluctantly flew back to Los Angeles on the morning of the 28th, but I had a three-hour layover in Honolulu first. That gave me a chance to wander through all of the airport shops (and eat a terrible Burger King breakfast) and savor Hawaii for just a little bit longer. I was sad to get home that night. PJJ Maui had turned out so much better than I ever imagined. I loved spending time in a tropical paradise with such an amazing group of women. This was the sorority experience I should have had in college. Several of us made similar comments during the week. It’s rare that you find people that you connect with like that and by some miracle we had all met each other through a Craigslist wedding forum almost a decade ago. I don’t know how I got so lucky, but I’ll always be grateful.