16 miles through London

I had an amazing long run this morning. I’m in London this week for work and my marathon training plan called for a 16 mile run. I have to admit I wasn’t looking forward to this run at all: it is the longest run I’ve had yet this training cycle, I’ve never run that long by myself before, and the idea of trying to run 16 miles through a city I don’t know all that well felt pretty daunting. I’ve been contemplating a few different routes for a few weeks (loop around Hyde Park, Green Park, and St. James parks or loop around Regent’s and Hampstead Heath) but then I had an idea this week of running to a bunch of different landmarks. Here’s the route I *think* I took [I forgot to bring the thing that syncs my Garmin online]:

16 miles through London

I got up around 6 am and managed to leave the hotel a bit after 7:30 am. I had my hydration pack with me so I was able to take my phone, cash/cards, and my camera pretty easily. It was a gloomy gray Sunday morning. I started at Piccadilly Circus:

It was crazy to see it so devoid of people. No really, NO ONE was around.

From there, it was a short run to Trafalgar Square.

And then Big Ben.

From Parliament Square I then ran through St. James Park to Buckingham Palace.

And then through Green Park to the Bomber Memorial and the Wellington Arch.

From there, I ran on Brompton Road through Knightsbridge to the Kensington Museums. Brompton Road was also empty of tourists at that time in the morning.

I ran into Hyde Park because I wanted to see Kensington Palace (which I don’t think I’ve ever seen before today) and see the Diana Memorial Fountain again. I didn’t get a chance to see the fountain because there was some sort of cycling race (it might have been a triathlon since I also saw runners in tri gear) and I couldn’t figure out a way to cross the course to get to the fountain.

I’m always struck by how beautiful Hyde Park is. From the park, I ran to Paddington Station to see the Paddington Bear statue. Even though I’ve been to Paddington a few times, I never had a chance to find the Paddington Bear statue.

I tried to use the bathroom when I was at the station but you had to pay 30 pence to get in and I didn’t have any change so I decided to skip it. When I had run into the station, it started lightly raining. By the time, I left the station, it was pouring. It was annoying at first but then I just got used to it.

From there, I decided to head to Regent’s Park. At this point, I really needed to use the bathroom so I found a park map and ran to the nearest bathroom. Thankfully I picked the bathroom next to a cafe because when I got there, this bathroom also required paying 20 pence (hey I saved 10 pence by waiting!). I really didn’t want to break my flow by stopping to buy something from the cafe just to break my 20 pounds so that I can get 20 pence. I was tempted to just crawl under the little saloon like door thing but thankfully I came to my senses and just went to the cafe. I ended up taking a break and getting a blueberry muffin and a bottle of water. At this point I had run over 8 miles so that blueberry muffin tasted like it was the best blueberry muffin I have ever eaten in my life.

Honestly at this point Regent’s Park didn’t seem that eventful or scenic (I don’t know maybe because I just came from Hyde Park or maybe because I had been running for so long) so I just decided to run across it and then head to Hampstead Heath. As I existed the park, I noticed a sign for Primrose Hill, which sounded vaguely familiar, so I figured I’d give it a shot. I’m glad I did because even on a cloudy day, it was a beautiful view of the city.

The run to Hampstead Heath was pretty quiet and through a beautiful [and posh] part of the city. My goal was to run to Parliament Hill since I heard it had such great views of London. By the time I got there, the view was OK [I think it was better on Primrose Hill].

There were plenty of dogs in all 3 parks [the English seem to have an amazing ability to have their dogs go off leash yet still manage to get them to come back to them]. At the top of Parliament Hill, I saw a rottie [possibly a mix and with a full tail!] that reminded me of Layla but he/she ran off too quickly for me to snap a photo. At this point, I think I had run about 12 miles and thankfully the hotel was about 4 miles away. The last 4 miles were the least scenic and least amazing of the run. I ran through Kentish Town and Camden Town, not because I wanted to visit either but because they were along the route that Google Maps sent me. They were pretty grimy. This was the nicest thing I found to take a photo of:

At one point, I managed to make it back to the Regent’s Park area. I got a bit turned around at this point because my phone ran out of battery. I only had about 1.5 miles left at this point and I sort of knew where I needed to go. I knew I needed to get to Regent Street and then back to Piccadilly Circus. I somehow managed to stumble upon Regent Street, which at this point was crazy crazy busy (I think it was after noon or 1 pm at this point). To make matters worse, there was also a special Magnum event where they had the street blocked off and were giving away ice cream. I barely did any running during the last half mile, mostly just trying to make my way through the crowds. I was hoping to pass by Oxford Circus and take some photos but I totally missed it. I may have technically ran by it but missed it due to all the craziness.

Overall, it was a really awesome run and I felt pretty good most of the way. It took me over 5 hours to run the 16 miles, which is really slow even for me. But I was stopping pretty frequently to either take photos or figure out where I was going. This was the most fun I’ve had running in a long long time.

After the run, I headed back to my hotel room to stretch, foam roll, and get cleaned up. A few days ago, I booked myself an afternoon tea service at Claridge’s. It was a really nice treat after such an awesome run. It was totally relaxing and fun. I drank 3 different teas: Rare Earl Grey, Emperor’s Breakfast, and Second Flush Muscatel Darjeeling. The Earl Grey was my favorite of the three.

It was a great Sunday fun day (run day?). :)

starting over

Week 1
Days to the 2015 SF Marathon: 238
Weekly Total: -3 (a bit inflated since I was using 2 different scales this week)

The past two years have been pretty dismal for my weight loss goals – instead of reaching my goal weight, I ended up gaining back some of the weight I’ve lost. I have a hard enough time losing weight so trying to lose weight I’ve already lost (2? 3? times, maybe more) is annoying, disappointing, and disheartening. I wish I could say that the past 2 years have been a joyride of excess and laziness but they have not (had that been the case, that would have made it far less heartbreaking). I ran a freaking marathon last year and 5 half marathons this year. I’ve been regularly working out a few times a week and for the most part, eating pretty healthy. For a lot of reasons that I’m not going to go into here, I haven’t been able to be as vigilant as I was in 2012 when I was blogging regularly about my progress. For me to maintain my weight loss and continue to lose weight, I have to be nearly perfect. I need to workout 5-6 times a week, plan and make my own meals of unprocessed foods (lots of veggies, fruits, whole grains, & lean protein), drink lots of water, get a lot of sleep, and be accountable to myself by blogging. And it is no surprise that I have to be nearly perfect, I’ve got a lot of things going against me: I’ve never been thin (the research shows that if you’re a fat kid, you’re pretty much doomed to be a fat adult), I might be genetically disposed to being fat (I don’t know this for sure but judging by how hard I have to work to lose weight and the number of people in my immediate and extended family who struggle with their weight, I’m guessing this may be the case), and I’ve already lost a lot of weight which means I actually need to consume less calories than someone who’s at my current weight and hasn’t lost any weight. I’ve tried numerous times in the past 2 years to kickstart things but they’ve backfired every time. I think a huge part of my failures has been trying to count points or calories. Given my long history of trying to lose weight, anything that involves restricting my food and trying to be within a certain limit is a bad idea for me. I usually see really fast results at first but I get so irrationally obsessed (e.g. if I’m actually physically hungry but out of points/calories, I get super stressed out about having to go over my limit or try really hard to not eat anything even though I’m physically hungry) with trying to be within the prescribed limit that I end up feeling so deprived that I go off the rails. I lost 80 pounds the first time around by not counting calories or points – I worked out regularly and ate whatever I wanted (that was healthy) and followed my intuitions around my hunger. It wasn’t fast but it worked before and I think it can work again.

OK, so now that all that negative emotional baggage is out of the way, here’s to a fresh start. I’m using the 2015 SF Marathon as a good goal to work towards. If I have any chance of completing that marathon in under the 6 hour time limit, there are some things I need to work on in the next 7-8 months:

  • lose a significant amount of weight. It’s pretty simple, the leaner you are, the better of a runner you get (you’re faster and you won’t hit the wall as fast). My goal is to lose between 40 – 60 pounds by the time race day comes. Needless to say, that’s really really aggressive for me but I have to at least try (because honestly any progress is good progress).
  • improve my cardio endurance. This means doing other types of cardio, other than running. Over the past 2 years, I’ve been pretty bad about getting any other cardio in other than running. I recently bought an erg (indoor rower), which I absolutely love. I love being able to work out at home, how freaking hard it is, that it works out your whole body, and that it is low impact. After about a month of regular rowing, I’ve finally managed to work my way up to rowing for a whole hour. I’m super super proud of that.
  • get stronger. Other than my weekly workout with my trainer, I’ve been neglecting resistance/strength training. I want to make sure that I’m getting 2-3 sessions a week of strength training, specifically focusing on things that will improve my running (like planks, squats, lunges).
  • get less tight. I haven’t been very good about stretching and foam rolling every day (I’m usually pretty good about doing that after running). I don’t have a runner’s body and I’m injury-prone so neglecting the daily stretching/foam rolling means that I’m super super tight. I’m actually taking the next month off from running and going to be spending more time on the rower & stretching.

So that’s the plan going forward, onto to week 1. I was at home visiting my parents most of the week for Thanksgiving. I brought along my travel scale, which I used for my first weigh-in on Monday morning. I really like the convenience of having that scale with me when I travel (it is nice to have something to be accountable to) but it tends to be a few pounds heavier than my bathroom scale. So I really have no idea if I actually lost 3 pounds this past week or if I just maintained my weight. Given that I was traveling, visiting my parents, and it was Thanksgiving week, I’m pretty happy with this week’s progress (even if I really didn’t lose any weight because I typically gain 3-5 pounds when I travel). Overall, I thought I did pretty well this week. I tried to eat mostly healthy stuff all week (except for eating dessert on Thanksgiving eve and Thanksgiving day) and I worked out 4 times:

  • Monday – resistance training at my parents’ house (and with no equipment!). I did planks, side planks, burpees, mountain climbers, crunches, lunges, side lunges, squats, and jumping jacks.
  • Wednesday – same resistance training workout as Monday
  • Thursday – 5K turkey trot race
  • Sunday – another resistance training workout at home (pretty similar to Monday & Wednesday but added some upper body weight training)

I’m really happy that I managed to get 3 strength training workouts but I wish I had a chance when to row this week. But there’s always next week!

Number Eight.

I’m going to be running my eighth half marathon this Sunday – the first half of the SF Marathon.  This will be my second time running the 1st half and my third year in a row running an SF Marathon half marathon. Of all the local races I’ve run, the SF Marathon is my favorite (Chicago is my absolute all time favorite but SF comes in second on that list).  More than any SF race, the SF Marathon (even at the half marathon distance) feels like  a REAL race.  Everything from race communication prior to the race to the expo to the actual race itself is super super well organized.  The course (especially in the first half and the five/six miles through Golden Gate Park) is stunningly gorgeous.  And with all those hills and a super early morning start time (around 5:30 am to 6:30 am depending on your wave), it is a hard course.  It just feels hard core – a serious effort that’s worth doing and celebrating.

I’m really excited about this weekend’s race but I’m also a bit nervous.  I don’t feel like this training cycle has been all that great – I’ve missed far more runs than I’d like and I haven’t done much cardio cross-training (partially due to being in Europe for two weekends and partially due to time management/stress).  I do think I’m more prepared for the hills this year than I was back in 2012 when I ran it the first time.  I’m going to run this race without my trusty Garmin (I’ve never run anything longer than a 5K without my Garmin) and run the race by feel.  I’m really curious to see what that feels like but I’m also somewhat worried about not knowing at any particular moment how I’m doing (but that’s kind of the point).

But more than anything, I’m using this weekend’s race as an opportunity to keep me inspired and to kick start a few things:

  1. I want a half marathon PR at the San Jose Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon in October.  I’ve run this race before and the course is flat flat flat.  If there’s one course where I can run a half marathon in under 2:30, this is it.
  2. I want to run the full San Francisco Marathon next year.  Having run both halves of the marathon and seen how difficult each one is on its own, running the full SF Marathon is kind of scary BUT also super exciting.  I really want to be able to say that I’ve done it.  And I’ve got a whole year to train.
  3. I want to run the Chicago Marathon next year, raising funds for the PCRF.  Running the Chicago Marathon last year was amazing and I want to relive that experience (and improve my time).  I learned about the PCRF last year at the Chicago Marathon – they help kids from Palestine and Syria get medical treatment abroad.  It is a really great organization that’s non-political.  I can’t think of a better or more important way to run the Chicago Marathon than to do so while helping these kids that the world has seemingly forgot.
  4. I want to get an erg (indoor rowing machine).  I was most consistent with my cardio cross-training when I lived in an apartment complex with a gym.  Even though we’ve got some awesome gyms at work, I’ve never really gotten into the habit of going there consistently.  I’ve found that there are some logistical constraints for me personally that make this hard (e.g. getting ready at work, having a hard time separating my time vs. work time, finding the right machine when they’re all taken during peak times, etc).  I know if I had something in my place I would totally use it.  I have a love/hate relationship with the erg.  It is an AWESOME workout and unlike the elliptical, feels hardcore.  And it would be a nice complement to my running.  But it can also be really hard to pass the time on it (because it is so hard).  I’ve been pondering this possibility for a week and I’m still pretty excited about it so this is most likely going to happen!
  5. Eating better.  I’ve really struggled with this since joining Google.  The reality is that when you’ve lost a lot of weight and you’re trying to maintain that, you just have to be way way more careful than the average person.  And when somebody else is preparing food for you, you really have no idea what’s in it and it just makes it that much harder.  I’ve been trying to bring my own lunch and snacks (yes, this does sound and look as funny as you’d expect when you work in a place that offers free food) like I used to do before I joined Google.  Doing so has been pretty effective for me, it is just easier to each healthier when I’ve already packed things that I like that are healthy.  It just takes the guesswork out of it.
  6. Being more consistent about blogging my progress.  There’s something about writing (and writing when you think you just might possibly have an audience) that helps keep me going and helps me stay on track.

All of these things are getting me pretty excited about the next year.  If there’s one thing I’ve learned over the past few years of losing and maintaining is that I need to be working towards new goals and trying new things.  The more that I feel like an athlete training for an event, the more that I treat my body like a tool that needs to be properly fueled and maintained (drinking enough water, getting enough sleep, stretching, massage, etc).  I think numbers #1 through #4 on that list will really help put me in that frame of mind.

As is running my EIGHTH half marathon (!!!!). In the most beautiful city in the world. On a course that even marathoners fear.

Let’s go!

Chicago Marathon!

I. Ran.  The.  Chicago.  Marathon.

It’s been a week since the Chicago Marathon and I still can’t believe that I ran a marathon (all 26.2 miles).  Going into the race, I had a lot of doubts about my ability to complete it.  In retrospect, it probably wasn’t a good idea to train for a marathon during my first year at Google (hindsight is always 20/20).  Even though I’ve trained for and ran 5 half marathons before Chicago, the training cycle leading up to Chicago was probably the hardest.  Every long run past 12 miles was hard, really really hard.  Heat was a consistent issue throughout the summer and I hit my breaking point a few times.  I wanted to cry during at least one run and I hit a wall at mile 18 during our 20 mile run, our last and longest run before the marathon.  I was starting to dread the long runs and running wasn’t fun anymore.  Running and completing the marathon felt like yet another stressor in my life, as opposed to the thing that melted my stress away.

The week before the race I tried to really focus on managing my stress, getting enough sleep, hydrating, dialing in my nutrition, and stretching & foam rolling.  And I think doing so really helped focus my priorities.  I stopped caring so much about what my time might be and more about making sure that I did everything I could so that I wouldn’t hit a wall during the marathon.  And to really enjoy the experience and celebrate how far I’ve come.  By the time I got on the plane to Chicago, I was feeling excited (albeit a bit nervous) and joyous.  Marathon weekend was finally here and I really was going to run my first marathon.  A large number of people on our plane were heading to Chicago for the marathon so that also helped set the mood.

Once we got to Chicago, checked into our hotel (which was an awesome hotel for marathon weekend — yay to free stays thanks to my Starpoints!), and had lunch, we headed to McCormick Place for the expo.  And what an expo it was!  It was HUGE!  Every possible running product you could possibly think of was represented, as were all the major athletic brands.  Nike had the best selection of Chicago Marathon shirts so I picked up one of their Chicago Marathon Milers.

Chicago Marathon Expo

As we were walking around the expo, I got emotional a few times.  I kept thinking about where I’ve been and how far I’ve come.  And not just with my body or weight loss but my whole life story.  From my family losing everything literally overnight to me winding up in a classroom surrounded by a language I don’t understand to managing to get paid to go to college to finding my way to the University of Michigan and Silicon Valley, what an amazing and incredible life I’ve been blessed with.  In those dark dark days of the 1990s, the only thing that kept me going were my dreams.  And in my wildest dreams, I wouldn’t have imagined any of this.

After the expo, we headed back to the hotel.  Other than a crazy awesome cab driver (he played for us several rap songs he had composed and performed, all while pimping his YouTube channel), we had a pretty uneventful evening of room service pasta, stretching, and foam rolling.  Saturday was equally chill — we ran a quick 2 mile shakeout run, checked out the bean, got some race day shopping done (bananas, bagels, Gatorade, water), stretched, foam rolled, ice bathed, and ate more pasta at Osteria Via Stato (which by the way is worth a trip to Chicago by itself — so good that we ate there the next night to celebrate finishing the marathon!).  Throughout the day, I made sure to drink a lot of water (I think I had about 200 oz, which is about double what I usually drink in a day).  I was really worried about getting dehydrated and I really didn’t want a repeat of San Diego.

I managed to get some sleep Saturday night, more so than I usually do the night before a big race.  As I was getting ready, I was also pretty relaxed.  I was planning on eating a bagel, banana, and a cup of cereal for breakfast but I could only stomach the bagel and half a banana.  I got a little bit of Diet Pepsi for caffeine and some Gatorade and water for hydration.  We left the hotel a little later than I would have liked and by the time we got through security and found our corral, I really needed to use the bathroom again (perhaps drinking 200 oz of water the night before wasn’t such a great idea) and the line to the port-a-potties was super super long.  Chicago has this policy of closing the corrals 15 minutes before the wave is supposed to start so because we had to wait about 30 minutes for the port-a-potties, we ended up missing our corral and having to start the marathon all the way in the back.  This was pretty annoying because we now had to weave through all the walkers and all the people who were even slower than us.  I was pretty mad at this point but I managed to let it go after a few minutes.  Since we were all the way in the back, it took a really long time before we got to the start line.  But before we knew it, we were off!

Chicago Marathon

My goals for the race were to finish (ideally around 5:30), not hit a wall, not get injured, and have fun.  I knew if I kept us running around a 12/12:30 minute/mile pace that we’d be able to finish the race.  I was worried that if we ran any faster than that we wouldn’t be able to finish.  As we were running, I also tried really really hard not to think about how far we’ve gone or how many more miles we had to run.  I knew thinking that way would be counterproductive — I really just wanted to enjoy the atmosphere, the city, and its people.  I knew I was going to be out there for at least 5 or 6 hours so I might as well enjoy it.  I planned to Gu every 4 miles and make sure that I drank some water and Gatorade every mile.  We kept pace with the 5:45 pace group, even though they started before us.  Around the 3.5 mile mark, I needed to use the bathroom again (over-hydrating the night before was starting to catch up with me).  We found some port-a-potties but the line was yet again really really long and we ended up waiting around 10 minutes.  After our break, I tried to run as fast as I could.  When we hit the four mile mark, I looked down at my watch and our pace for that mile was a little over 19 minutes – so despite running my hardest for that half mile after the break, we still lost 7 minutes.  I continued to run mile 5 pretty hard, trying to figure out if it was worth trying to make up those lost 7 minutes.  The more I thought about it, the more I realized it would be pretty risky.  Trying to recover those 7 minutes meant running 11/11:30 minute miles for the next 7 miles.  That’s the sort of pace I’m pretty comfortable with for a half marathon but I really didn’t want to blow my legs, hit a wall, or do anything so early to risk finishing the marathon.  After finishing mile 5, I decided to let it go and go back to my planned 12/12:30 pace.  We ended up taking another potty break around the half marathon point but that one was much faster (no line!).  Overall, I felt great running most of the marathon.  My Gu/hydration plan worked really well – I didn’t hit a wall at all (even after 20 miles).  For the most part, I didn’t really walk much (mostly towards the last few miles and usually around the water stops).  The last 3 miles were the hardest.  My legs and feet were pretty spent, although I was feeling pretty good in terms of my cardiovascular fitness and emotional state.  It was a bit frustrating since some of that was beyond my control (if I only I had been born with longer, speedier legs! Or a not so wonky gait!).

Noor running

It didn’t take long into the race to realize why so many people love the Chicago Marathon and run it every single year.  The people of Chicago really come out in droves for the marathon.  We had cheering crowds supporting us almost 100% of the course.  It was an amazing, incredible experience.  I’ve never run a race where so many people were out there cheering you on.  And these folks were genuinely excited for you and they weren’t there just for the elites.  They could have easily gone home after a couple of hours but no, Chicago was out supporting you six hours into the race.  The course itself was awesome, weaving you through all of Chicago’s major neighborhoods.  It was neat to run through all the different ethnic neighborhoods and see people of every ethnicity cheering you on.  The entire marathon was a celebration of humanity and that human spirit that brings us all together – that drive that makes us do what seems impossible.  Even though these people didn’t know you and didn’t look like you, they were cheering you on because you were just as human as them.  At one point, we saw some Palestinians cheering runners while waving a Palestinian flag.  At another point, we saw some South Koreans waving South Korean flags with Gangnam Style blaring.  In another neighborhood, a woman stood in the middle of the course high-fiveing runners and declaring at the top of her lungs, “YOU A CHAMPION! YOU A CHAMPION! YOU A CHAMPION!” to every runner that passed by her.  Chinatown was probably my favorite neighborhood to run through.  We were past 20 miles into the race and the energy was incredible.  They were playing Applause and I couldn’t help myself from singing along and that’s when I knew I was feeling great and having a great time.

There was a point a few miles past the half marathon point (it might have been mile 15 or 16) where I thought, “I don’t know that I need to run another marathon again,” but that all changed when I ran across the finish line.  Even though the last 3 miles were tough, I really committed to myself to run them (even if I was running pretty slowly) and not stop or walk.  Once I got to the last mile, I was able to push a bit harder and once I saw that finish line, I sprinted as fast as I could.  Nothing, nothing beats that feeling of running through that finish line and of finishing what once seemed absolutely impossible.  I got pretty emotional at that point (and I still get emotional every now and then when I think about the marathon).  I DID IT!  And it was fun!  What an amazing, incredible experience – what an amazing, incredible life I’ve been blessed with.

Sometimes it’s easy to forget where I once was and where I am today.  Running the Chicago Marathon was a great reminder.  I’ve been on a high since then.  It’s rekindled my passion for running and being healthy.  In some ways, I almost feel reborn.

She is tossed by the waves but does not sink.

An Update and a Photo Food Journal

Remember how I was doing 30 in 30 last year?

Yeah, I never did lose 30 pounds in 30 weeks (although that would have been awesome).  At most, I lost about 14.5 pounds.  Then Christmas, new job, moving happened and I’m back up about 12 pounds*.  Yikes.

Despite all of the craziness, I’ve been doing pretty well with working out (I’ve been averaging about 4 times/week).  My food has been OK but not great.  I’ve been trying to figure out a good way to get back on track, despite being very busy.  I was doing a paper food journal for a few weeks but I wasn’t doing a very good job of actually writing in it, which defeats the purpose of keeping a food journal.  I’ve never had much luck with calorie counting apps – the whole concept of counting calories tends to backfire for me.  And since I didn’t lose/maintain 70-80 pounds for over five years doing that, it’s hard for me to believe in it (I know it works for some people, it just doesn’t work for me – at least not in the long run).  I really liked doing 30 in 30 since it gave me a sense of accountability and  a sense of accomplishment – I could see week to week what I had done.  But I really hated having all that pressure to lose X pounds in X weeks.  I always felt behind or like I needed to catch up.  So I’ve decided to go back to to doing a photo food journal.  I found it pretty helpful when I did it a few years ago but there were times when I didn’t take pictures of everything.  I also didn’t reflect on it on a daily or even weekly basis.  It just became a routine.  This time, I’m going to try to blog about it every day.  I feel like by doing it that way, it will still have impact for me, while still giving me a sense of accomplishment.  I’m also going to post weekly weight progress on Saturdays.  I don’t have specific per week weight loss goals – as long as I’m losing something or maintaining, then that’s progress right now.

So without further ado here’s yesterday’s food journal:

Grapes pre-breakfast

grapes, pre-breakfast

Blueberries, pineapples, oatmeal (with skim)

blueberries, pineapples, oatmeal

Banana (pre-run snack)

banana, pre-run

First run after the half (@ rancho San Antonio)
First run after the SD half marathon and first run at Rancho San Antonio in a very very long time. I had forgotten how much harder running on dirt can be compared to asphalt. And it was HOT.

Post-run snack (nectarines)

nectarines are in season!

Eggs & whole wheat sourdough

eggs, whole wheat sourdough, and strawberries

Post run stretching & foam rolling

long round of stretching/foam rolling

Cashews & almonds

cashews & almonds

hummus, salad, avocado

I’ve been really liking using hummus as a dressing.


leftover pizza


Have I mentioned that nectarines are in season?

Overall, a pretty good day with very little processed stuff. Could have used a bit more veggies but not bad for a weekend.

* I am using a new scale that isn’t as forgiving as my old scale (e.g. you can’t put it on a bathroom rug unless you want to lose 20 pounds in an instant) so it’s probably more like 8 or 10 pounds.  And some people like to tell me that I’ve gained some muscle with this last round of half marathon training but I don’t believe that.

Race recap: San Diego Half Marathon

San Diego Half Marathon finisher medal

I ran the San Diego Half Marathon last Sunday.  I had really high hopes for this race.  Even though I’ve been very busy during this training cycle (new job, moving), I’ve managed to only miss two runs and my training was going great.  I’ve been running a bit faster than usual so I was really aiming for a PR, specifically my goal was to run the SD half in under 2:30.  My plan going into the race was to aim for an 11:15 pace early in the race, then do an 11:30 for the hilly mile or two, and then finish with an 11:00 pace for the last few miles.  Unfortunately, that didn’t happen.

Overall, the SD half is actually a pretty well-organized race.  The pre-race expo was OK – they had a few vendors but nothing I hadn’t seen at other races before.  One thing that I found annoying about the expo is that they made you go through the entire expo/vendor floor before you could pick up your bib or shirt.  The shirt itself feels like a cheaper tech shirt than the Nike dry fit shirts I like to wear.  And they decided that the women’s cut shirts should have a Pepto-Bismol pink stripe on them – lame.  I like pink but not Pepto-Bismol pink and that shade of pink looks totally wrong on a dark navy shirt.

Race day morning was a bit rough due to daylight savings.  We went to bed early but the hour lost really did hurt.  I really don’t understand why they held the race the morning after daylight savings or why they didn’t push back the start time an hour.  I had my usual pre-race breakfast of a bowl of cereal with skim.  I did drink 20 oz of Diet Pepsi, which was a bit more than I usually drink on race morning (did I mention I lost an hour of sleep?) and drank a bit of water (maybe 10 oz) but not as much as I usually drink on race morning.  We stayed at the US Grant (love, love that place) so it was a nice little walk to the start line near Petco Park.  Between the walk and my usual warm-up routine, I felt like I was pretty warmed up before we got into our corral.  The start was very smooth and it felt like they paced the corrals very well.  There were also plenty of photographers taking photos before the start and on the course.  I still haven’t bought my official race photos but one of the photographers got a great photo of me waiting to start my watch at the start line.

So going into this race, I was expecting a PR – partly because my training had been going so well and partly because I was under the impression that the SD Half was a flat course with one hill.  I think the elevation map for the course is somewhat deceptive (compare it to the elevation chart on my Garmin).  Yes, the course is mostly flat but it isn’t pancake flat as their map suggests.  There were lots of little ups and downs – totally manageable but not flat.  Despite the hillier than anticipated course, I was actually doing really well the first 7.5 miles.  I was keeping a great pace (faster than I intended but I was having a hard time slowing down any further) and my body felt great.  I didn’t have any IT band, hip flexor, calf, or plantar fasciitis pain or soreness.  The course itself was somewhat scenic – they seemed to have designed the course to maximize views of the water and San Diego Bay.  But that also meant that there were several miles where you’re just running around the airport (including about a mile through the rental car lots) and breathing in jet fuel.  No fun.

At about the 7.5 mile mark is where things fell apart for me.  I started feeling really ill – bad headache, lightheaded, somewhat dizzy.  I took a GU (my second for the course) and drank more water but that didn’t help at all.  I felt pretty awful like that for the rest of the race.  The hill towards the end of the course was actually pretty hard – it was a steady incline (at an angle no less!) for about a mile.  It felt pretty comparable to the hills I ran in the SF Half.  I’m not really sure what happened with my body that caused the headache/lightheadedness.  I’ve never experienced anything like that before so it was kind of scary.  I really wasn’t sure if I’d be able to finish the race and was really disappointed because if it weren’t for the headache/lightheadedness, I probably would have PRed.  But even with feeling so physically ill, I managed to finish the race and finish with a time of 2:36:36.  If I compare my time to my PR goal, then it was a pretty disappointing finish.  But if I compare it to my other half marathons, it actually wasn’t so bad since it was my second fastest half.

I’m not exactly sure what happened to have caused the lightheadedness/dizziness but here are a few possibilities:

  1. Lack of sleep. I didn’t get a lot of sleep race week and I didn’t get a lot of sleep the night before the race (damn you daylight savings!).
  2. Dehydration. I drank a lot of Diet Pepsi that morning and not enough water.  I don’t think I drank as much water as I usually do the two days before the race (partly due to travel and not having as much water around as I usually have at home).
  3. Electrolytes. In past races, I’d drink one or two Nuuns the night before and another the morning of the race.  For some stupid reason, I didn’t do that this time.  I think it was partly ego, partly not really knowing if it made a difference or if I needed it.
  4. Nutrition. I’ve been thinking I may need to eat more the morning before a half marathon.  I’m going to experiment with different foods before my long runs in the next few months.  I’m probably going to try a whole wheat bagel with peanut butter and a banana.  And if that still feels light, I may add a bowl of oatmeal or cereal to it.

Despite the mystery illness and the disappointing finish, I’m actually really encouraged/happy with how my body felt during the race (no pain!) and afterwards.  I was sore for a day or two but I didn’t have the same level of soreness/pain I’ve had following both the SF half and the San Jose Rock ‘n’ Roll.  Overall, the San Diego Half is a pretty good race but not one I’d go out of my way to run again.

Race recap: Rock ‘n’ Roll San Jose Half Marathon

Last October, I ran the Rock ‘n’ Roll San Jose Half Marathon.  I’ve been meaning to blog about the race for a while but well . . . . I’ve just been very very busy over the past few months (new job, moving, etc).  In any case, this race is awesome!  The organizers advertise the course as the flattest/fastest in California and I think they might be right.  I PRed big time and probably could have run it in under 2:30 if it weren’t for my very very sore hip flexor (more on that later).  I actually had very low expectations for the race experience and the main reason I signed up for it was that I had a hard time finding a large half marathon to run in the fall in the Bay Area.  After coming off my amazing experience running the first half of the San Francisco Marathon, I figured running in San Jose would be pretty lame.  It’s San Jose – what’s to see in downtown San Jose?!  But I think the organizers did a fantastic job weaving the course through the most scenic parts of the city (again, it is San Jose so you know when I say scenic, I mean as scenic as San jose can get).  As we were running through the different neighborhoods in San Jose, I was actually struck by how cute some of them were, some of which I had never even driven through or were aware of.  And on top of that, there was music everywhere!  And most of it pretty good.  There were very few moments in the course when I didn’t hear any music at all.  And at one point towards the end of the course, the elite runners run past you as they run their final mile (so so cool).  The event was just so so organized and well run.  On top of that, the race shirt they gave away was a nice Brooks tech shirt that I still wear to the gym.  They also had a great expo – it wasn’t just the usual cheap stuff.  They actually had booths from companies like Garmin and FitBit.  It was a pretty awesome experience and one I’m hoping to run again — probably not this year though since it is so close to the Chicago Marathon.  OH.  MY.  GOD.  Did I really sign up to run a full marathon?  Yes, yes I did.  More on that another time (like when I actually know what I’m going to do about it and all).

Now about that hip flexor I mentioned earlier . . . . yeah that sucked big time.  I think the whole hip flexor thing started after I ran the first half of the SF Marathon.  After the race, I was having a very sharp pain on the left side of my back, around my hip.  I usually would only notice it after I’d been sitting for a while or after driving.  I had no idea what it was and just figured it would go away.  I’d feel it sometimes when I was running but not consistently.  I think muscle strain/overuse injuries that come and go are the worst because you sort of forget about them or assume they’re healed when they’re just sitting there dormant.  For the most part, I managed to have a pretty good training cycle leading up to the San Jose half without dealing with the issue.  But it all came to a head when I ran my last long run (an easy six miler) the weekend before the race.  My hip flexor was so so sore and painful after that run, I felt like I could barely walk.  I still didn’t know that it was my hip flexor (I kept thinking it was something in my back).  I rested most of that week and had a great sports massage with my awesome massage lady and that seemed to have healed it.  I then ran an easy 2 mile run the day before the race and the pain came back with a vengeance.  I’ve had IT band pain of various severity over the past few years so I’m well accustomed to running with pain but this was pain on a whole new level.  On top of that, I was really freaking out.  I just went for an easy 2 mile run and now I’m in pain?  I was really starting to wonder if I’d be able to complete the half marathon the next morning.  Later that evening, after describing the pain to the former-NCAA-collegiate-athlete-I-live-with, we figured out that it was my hip flexors and not my back.  If only I had figured that out right after the SF half!  GRRRR!!!

I tried to do everything I could that evening in an attempt to magically heal the pain (Advil, ice, heat patch, etc) but when I woke up the next morning, it still hurt.  It really really really hurt.  I was in serious pain just walking around.  As I was warming up before the race, I was really starting to question how I was going to manage to run a mile, let alone 13.1.  That’s how much pain I was in.  But somehow I ran a mile, then a 5K, then a 10K, then ten miles, and then 13.1.  And somehow I PRed.  I’m still not really sure how I did it because I have never felt so so much pain in my life.  It was pretty awful.  It was like having somebody squeeze or stab your hip with every step.  It sucked.

Recovering from my hip flexor injury has been a slow process but I’m mostly healed.  Like my IT band, I think I’ll probably deal with hip flexor issues for as long as I continue long distance running.  I haven’t been blessed with a runner’s body and my left leg likes to bend inwards as I run and walk.  But I’m really happy to have figured out how to manage both issues.  What seems to really work for both is stretching, foam rolling, and regularly getting (good quality) sports massages.  And when I say stretching and foam rolling, I mean doing lots of stretching and foam rolling.  I probably spend 10 – 20 minutes stretching and foam rolling after a quick weekday run (I’d spend more time if I didn’t have to go to work) and about an hour (if not more) after a long weekend run.  For my hip flexors, I found these three stretches to be the most helpful (in no particular order): pigeon pose, quad/hip flexor stretch, and this hip flexor stretch.  On weekends, I do all three for 2 minutes for each leg.  On weekdays, I do 1 minute/leg or if I’m really short on time 30 seconds/leg.  Of course, this is on top of the stretches I do for my abductors, hamstrings, calves, glutes, calves, and IT band.  I also foam roll my hip flexors.  You have to have the right angle – it is similar to foam rolling your IT band but you’ve got the foam roller a bit higher up your hip and more to the front.  It was pretty painful at first so I’ve had to work my way up.  I still only do about 10 – 15 repetitions on each side (this is compared to the 30 I do for my IT band, glutes, and quads).

So aside from the super ouchy hip flexor, this race rocked!

30 in 30: Weeks 18 – 26 – Weeks in Review

YIKES!! 9 weeks!!  The past 9 weeks have been a bit crazy.  Here’s a very quick summary of what’s been going on:

  • I ran the San Jose Rock ‘n Roll Half Marathon and PRed big time!  (more on that in another post)
  • I’ve been struggling with some hip flexor pain/tightness since the half marathon.  In attempting to rehab it, I haven’t been running much.  I really need to spend some significant time stretching and foam rolling but I haven’t been very good about doing that.
  • I went to the Big Island!  I snorkeled really deep!  And even swam in the deep end of the pool!  I’m proud of all the progress I’ve made with my swimming over the past few years but I want to get to the point where I’m really comfortable in deeper water.  And one of these days I’ll finally learn how to tread water.
  • I’m switching jobs!

Here’s a quick recap of my results and my progress with my exercise and food:

Weekly Totals:
Week 18: +1.8 pounds (who runs a half marathon and gains 1.8 pounds?!)
Week 19: -2 pounds
Week 20: -0.6 pound
Week 21: -1 pound
Week 22: -0 pounds (Hawaii)
Week 23:  +0.8 pound (Hawaii)
Week 24: -0.6 pound
Week 25: +3.0 pounds (Thanksgiving at home)
Week 26: -1.6 pounds

30 in 30 Total:  - 13.4 pounds
Five Year Total: – 82 pounds

Even though I’m not going to hit the 30 pound mark by the end of the year, I’m proud of my progress so far this year.  I’m annoyed by the 3 pounds I gained Thanksgiving week but I only visit my family once or twice a year so it is my only opportunity to eat my mom’s grape leaves and kibbee.  I’m pretty confident I’ll lose those 3 pounds in the next couple of weeks.  Between travel, work, and interviewing for the new job, things have been hectic.  For the most part, I feel like my food has been mostly on track.  I feel like I haven’t been as good about working out (I’m probably averaging about 3 workouts a week instead of my usual 5 or 6) – partly due to lack of time, partly due to stress, partly due to not having an event that I’m currently training for, and partly due to not being able to run as often (due to the hip flexor issue).

Plan for the rest of the year:

I’d like to get to the -85 pounds mark by the end of the year but with the new job and the holidays coming up, just maintaining my current weight might be a good goal.  I do want to get back to working out 5 to 6 times a week.  I just started taking spinning twice a week and that’s been really fun and a great cardio workout.  My new employer has an onsite gym so I think that’ll help me get my other non-running workouts in before or after work.  I also want to really focus on stretching and foam rolling, since I really need to do that to rehab my hip flexors.  I also want to get back to blogging my progress every week since it really helps me stay focused.

So the next few weeks are going to be exciting, fun, and crazy.  But I just have to remember to take time out for myself to workout and focus on my goal of trying to get a few more pounds in before the end of the year.

30 in 30: Weeks 14 – 17 – Week in Review

Weekly Total:
Week 14 : -0.2 pounds
Week 15:  -0 pounds (weekend in LA – I’m actually surprised I managed to not gain weight)
Week 16: -1.2 pounds
Week 17: -0.8 pounds

30 in 30 Total:  - 13.2 pounds
Five Year Total: – 81.8 pounds

Yet again, it has been a very busy few weeks (in my defense, I was working on three different studies in the past couple of weeks) but overall I’m pretty happy with my progress so far.  And best of all, I’m back at my -80 pound milestone!  80 pounds is a pretty big deal for me.  Not only am I at nearly the lowest weight I’ve ever been in the past five years (I think I may have gotten a pound or two lighter in 2010 before I started yo-yoing between the -70 and -80 pound marks), I’m the lightest I have ever been as an adult.  In fact, I’m pretty sure that I’m at the same weight today that I was as a freshman in high school.  And given that I didn’t run at all (or exercise much) when I was 14, I’m pretty sure I’m carrying a bit more muscle now than I did then.  The first time I got to the -80 pound milestone I collected and donated 80 pounds of food and I’m planning on doing the same exercise over the next month or so.  It took me a really long time to get back to this point and I feel like I really need to celebrate it and take it in like I had never done it before.

Overall, I feel like I’ve been working pretty hard both in terms of my food and my exercise.  Of course, there are always areas that I could improve.  That’s partly the perfectionist in me but also partly the reality that I’m at a point where I have to be very precise.  But I have to remind myself that given my schedule and my life, I’m doing the best that I can.  And the best that I can might mean having weeks where I only lose 0.2 pounds.  And that’s OK.

Other than a long weekend in LA, my food intake and choices have been pretty good/clean – lots of veggies, fruits, lean protein, and good carbs.


Week 14:

  • Monday – rest
  • Tuesday – 4 mile cruise intervals run
  • Wednesday – 1 hour personal training
  • Thursday – 5K run
  • Friday – rest
  • Saturday – 10 mile run
  • Sunday – rest

Week 15:

  • Monday – 25 min run
  • Tuesday – rest
  • Wednesday – 35 min spin bike, 1 hour personal training
  • Thursday – 40 min run
  • Friday – 30 min elliptical, 30 min resistance training
  • Saturday – 7.5 mile run
  • Sunday – rest

Week 16:

  • Monday – 30 min elliptical, 15 min swimming
  • Tuesday – 5K run
  • Wednesday – 30 min spin bike, 1 hour personal training
  • Thursday – rest
  • Friday – 50 min run
  • Saturday – 10 mile run
  • Sunday – rest

Week 17:

  • Monday – 30 min run
  • Tuesday – rest
  • Wednesday – 30 min elliptical, 1 hour personal training
  • Thursday – rest
  • Friday – rest
  • Saturday – 6 mile run
  • Sunday – 1 hour resistance training at home

Plan for week 18:

This week I’m mostly focused on last minute preparation for Sunday’s (THIS SUNDAY!) San Jose Rock ‘n Roll Half Marathon.  It’s funny because I feel like this race has sort of snuck up on me.  My workout intensity and volume this week is a bit lower than usual.  I’m also trying to focus on making sure that I get enough sleep (a bit hard to do this week since I’m also doing in-home visits this week), drink enough water, and consume enough salt, carbs, and protein.

I’m also trying to manage some pain in my hip flexors.  I’ve had on/off pain in my lower back/side during this training cycle and wasn’t quiet sure what it was.  I initially thought it may have been my back so I’ve been spending time stretching my back.  I finally figured out this week (perfect timing) that the pain is actually in my hip flexors and not my back.  I really wish I had figured this out sooner so I would have had more time to deal with it and rectify the situation (I haven’t been stretching my hip flexors at all).  But I’m dealing with it now so I’m hoping it won’t have a huge impact on me during Sunday’s race since I really want to PR again! :)

Ego Leapfrogging

I’ve been running pretty regularly for almost five years, mostly outside on asphalt and dirt trails around the Peninsula and South Bay.  Over those five years, I’ve been passed by a lot of runners and cyclists (and tonight, I was even passed by two walkers as I was recovering from my interval run) and I’ve passed other runners and walkers.  I’ve come to appreciate those runners who can just glide past me and make running look so smooth and easy.  That type of running only comes from a lot of hard work and consistent training.  I’ve also come to admire the slowest of runners who make running look so hard and yet they continue to take one step after another.  That type of running only comes from a lot of hard work, persistence, and tenacity.  I understand that type of running because well, that’s the type of runner I am.  I am slow but I train consistently, take care of my body with proper nutrition/hydration/stretching/foam rolling/massage, and I’ve made the best of my gait and body, even when that meant a pesky chronic tight IT band or cramping calves.  Running didn’t come easy for me and I don’t take my current running stamina for granted. So when other runners pass me, I usually don’t mind.

Except when it is pretty clear that the only reason someone is passing me is because they didn’t like that I passed them a few minutes earlier.  That type of running I do not understand nor appreciate.  That type of running only comes from an overinflated ego, arrogance, and possibly misguided preconceptions about someone else’s abilities.  In case you don’t know what I’m talking about (or think I’ve overreacting), let me demonstrate with three different instances that I’ve encountered this past year.

A few months ago at the very start of my training for the SF half, I was out for a run on the Stevens Creek Trail in Mountain View right before a session with my trainer.  Being that this was my easy mid-week 5K run and I was about to see my trainer, I wasn’t really pushing hard at all.  At one point early in the run, I pass by a man walking decked out in brand new running gear.  A couple of minutes later, the same man runs past me.  His timing seemed a little suspect but I didn’t really think much of it.  I figured he must be doing intervals.  I continue along on my run and yet again I pass by the same runner walking yet again.  And yet again, a few minutes later, he passes me.  Isn’t it amazing how his intervals seem to coincide with my passing him?!  Again, I ignore him.  Sure enough, I find him a little while later walking and I run past him again.  I continue along on my run and as I’m running up a steep hill, I notice someone in the corner of my eye.  It’s walker runner dude yet again!  At this point, I can’t take his silliness any more and even though I wasn’t supposed to run hard, I started pushing.  I figure if this guy thinks he’s entitled to run faster than me, then I’m going to make him work for it.  I rock a 12 minute mile on a good day on a flat course – any serious runner should be able to beat me with minimal effort.  But as I continue pushing up the hill, I lose him for good.  I don’t know if he turned around or finished his run at another trail outlet; I didn’t look back and it felt so good.

The second incident also occurred while I was training for the SF half but during a long run on the Los Gatos Creek Trail.  I was out running on a very hot Saturday, at what may have been the hottest time of the day (around noon).  My workout called for running 8 miles with some serious intervals in the middle of the run.  The heat, combined with the intervals, topped by the rolling hills of the trail made for a very hard and sucky run.  The 20 ounces of water and packet of Gu that usually sustain me through a long run were not enough to sustain me through this one.  It was hard, really really hard.  As I was running the second half of the run and trying to sustain what qualified for a fast interval that day, I pass by a woman who was walking and looked like she too had been struggling with her run.  About ten or fifteen minutes later, I’m starting off yet another fast run interval but this time up a long hill.  The hill isn’t steep but it felt much steeper on that hot day.  As I’m trying to do my best to keep running up this hill, I hear someone struggling up the hill behind me.  As a few minutes pass, I’m still trying to keep a consistent pace up the hill but then I notice in the corner of my eye that the same woman whom I had passed was now trying to pass me.  At this point, I really didn’t care who passed me.  It was hot.  I was tired and thirsty and there was no way I could push any harder.  As we both continued running up the hill and I could hear her breathing over mine, it became pretty clear to me that she was trying to run far beyond her stamina.  For whatever reason, she wanted to pass me.  But as slow as I was running, she couldn’t and I didn’t see her again.

The third incident was the most egregious of the three and occurred a few weeks ago while I was still recovering from the SF half.  I was out for an easy 6 mile run on the Los Gatos Creek Trail on a Sunday evening.  This run was my first long run since the half and since I was still recovering, I was really taking it easy in terms of my pace and effort.  During the last mile of the run, I decided to run just a tad bit faster.  One bit of training strategy I’ve learned from my trainer is to try to add a few sprints here and there during the end of a run when your body is exhausted.  Doing so consistently builds up your stamina and gets you better prepared for that last sprint toward the finish line after a hard race.  During this faster bit of the run, my running partner and I run past a couple walking leisurely arm in arm.  Even though they were outfitted with running clothes, their pace and posture led me to believe that they were out for a stroll.  As I get to the last tenth or so of this last mile, I push even harder, wanting to sprint to the finish.  At this point, I start hearing some loud pounding footsteps behind me and I assume some serious runner is trying to pass me (I should have known better by the pounding) and I actually push a tad bit faster.  I push faster not because I think I can beat this serious runner but because I figure he or she should be able to easily pass me and it would help my workout if I sprinted even faster for this very last tenth of a mile.  As I get closer to the end of my run, the trail splits off and I need to get in the left lane so I look back to make sure I don’t get run over by the runner trailing me.  As I turn around, I see the leisurely walkers now trying to pass me.  The husband/boyfriend is a bit behind and really struggling.  The wife/girlfriend passes me as I slow down to get in the left lane.  As I notice her gait, it becomes pretty clear to me that this is not her normal pace (her limbs were flailing every which way) and I come to the conclusion that she’s simply doing this to pass me.  I’m pretty annoyed at this point so I speed up a bit more and pass her.  Sure enough, she starts passing me again and I hit overdrive.  I keep running as hard as I can until my Garmin dings for mile 6 and I start walking to the car.  She of course passes me at this point, with her boyfriend/husband trailing.  My workout was over and I had proven my point.

Maybe I’m being just as petty and immature as these three runners but I really take incidents like this personally.  Whether at the gym or on the trail, there’s a tendency for people to look at me, prejudge me by my body, and underestimate me.  All three of these runners saw someone pass them whom they assumed wasn’t that serious and surely that person couldn’t possibly be more athletic, faster, serious, or determined than them.  But they’re wrong, so so wrong.  What they don’t know about me or even understand, is that it took a lot of effort and hard work for me to get to where I am right now.  And I’m a stronger runner and athlete for it.  Maybe all three of these runners were having bad days but I really feel that they all thought that they were somehow entitled to pass me or run faster than me.  And that’s the sort of attitude I don’t appreciate.  You don’t get the privilege to pass me if you haven’t worked for it.  I, on the other hand, have earned every slow millisecond of my 12 minute mile.