Sunday, November 30, 2014

Exercise Diary: Best Treadmill Run

By which I was very surprised.

I was going to go yesterday since it would give me a day to rest before my Monday runs, and there was an NCIS marathon on TV.  But I didn't.  I made spicy fried chicken and ate too much for lunch, and although I finished lunch by 2pm I still felt like throwing up by 6.

Which was pretty much what happened today as well, this time with creamed potatoes and spinach.  It was a variation on the creamed parsnips and spinach I made for Thanksgiving, but I realized that I don't really care for the slightly sweet root vegetable.  The result today was too much cream and too big a portion, I'm sorry to say.

My stomach felt like lead for most of the afternoon and I took a nap before my 6pm run.  I felt dizzy just lying still in bed and that was kind of terrifying, and I wasn't sure if I should go, but when I got up I felt most of the food had passed on to the lower intestines and I felt better.  I did a one-minute plank and walked around for half an hour before changing into the my gym clothes and left for the gym.

The run went really, really well.  Despite my big lunch I did drop a few pounds this week (yes even with the Thanksgiving feast and my fried chicken lunch yesterday) through dieting.  It wasn't a real diet, I just didn't feel like eating and when I did eat I didn't care for big portions or meat or a lot of fat.  I can't explain the origin of this lack of interest in eating a lot but I'm glad I did and didn't question it much.  And as a result I went back down to the weight I was before I stopped running regularly, and that was way back in June.

Anyways, probably because of my light body I felt extra energetic today.  I preempted my run with a 9 minute warm-up walk while searching for something suitable to watch (Brave that was playing on ABC family), and did 2 miles on my initial, faster speed (4.6 mi/hr, not very fast, but still).  This almost never happens to me, as I usually poop out after a mile.  Then it got hard for my breathing and my heart, but instead of stopping to walk I slowed down to a even slower jog and kept at that for another half mile before walking for ~2 minutes.  But I started to jog again until I finished an approximate 5K.  Then I walked for a bit more to cool down before stopping.  The treadmill read 53 minutes but my Nike+ said 46, and apparently I achieved my fastest 5K yet.  The time was similar to my last and only 5K race, at about 40 minutes (I ran that 5K with my Nike+ app running as well but the distance didn't quite match so it didn't register as a 5K, oh well).  I know I'm not very fast by any standards but I felt really good afterwards.  My foot didn't hurt, my ankle didn't hurt, and I didn't even feel that much fatigue in my muscles, which means that next time I can run a bit longer if the my time allows.  And if I drop a few more pounds maybe I'll even try to run a bit faster at some point.  Small victories~

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Exercise Diary: Castle Mondays, Yoga Tuesdays

I did go running last week.  Not yoga though, my lab mate was very good at talking me out of it.

But I went yesterday.  And it was a good class, unlike last time. Which was two weeks ago and it was terrible.  I think the key here is focus.  I wasn't last time.  I had lots of things on my mind, like lab experiments, and airplane tickets for trips back home. I was distracted by the bright light above me, I was unfocused by the new location I was forced to be in at that class.

But this time I was focused.  The class was only half occupied since most people have gone home for winter break, and we had a new teacher who introduced to us some new variations of poses. I felt stronger within each pose, but weaker in between.  The room was extra hot and humid that day and I had to take child's pose multiple times, for the first time ever.  But I didn't have a lot of other things in mind and was focused for the most part.  And it was a very good class.

Thanksgiving this week and my friend and I are trying to make a traditional Thanksgiving dinner.  She's brave enough to tackle the turkey and I'm just making the side dished, and the gravy. I'm making a mashed potatoes casserole, a vegetable dish, stuffings, and an ice cream pumpkin pie. The mashed potatoes is already too salty, and that is before I added any bacon or cheese... the pumpkin pie  looks okay, if my freezer will work as it should.  Stuffing is in the slow cooker, and hopefully it will taste fine. I'm excited to see how everything comes together tomorrow, although it is kind of ridiculous to do so much work just for a dinner.

Will post pictures and they usually look better than they taste.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Exercise Diary: iTouch fixed!

Ever since my acute manifestation of plantar fasciitis on my right foot I have not been running regularly at all.  And now that the summer, and fall, are over, I'm saddened that I probably won't be running outside until maybe April of next year, which is about a month after I started running this year.  Not that I have not been hopeful: last week at TJMaxx I bought a running jacket that looked as if it could fend off some cold.  Useless for the dead of winter, but I'm still leaving myself chances, should I want to run outside at some point.

I have been very hesitant to run outside, partly due to my laziness, partly due to my self-consciousness of being seen, but more due to the fear that half way through my run my foot would throw me a curve ball and I would be stuck in the middle of nowhere.  So the result is that I haven't been running outside at all.

But for the past few weeks, especially since the end of September, I have been running or ellipticaling  every Monday night from 10-11pm.  That particular time slot because Castle is on TV.  Since the cold set in I embraced the fact that I will not be wasting the nice NH weather by choosing to run inside, but rather I no longer have a choice (especially if I want to run in the evenings, although before this week there are plenty of hard core undergrads who run really late at night).  And watching an episode of good TV show really pass the time.  And on Tuesdays I sometimes go to yoga classes.  That's less consistent, because although I have a yoga buddy we are very good at talking ourselves out of going due to laziness masked as tiredness.  But I went last week and will go again tomorrow so hopefully the pattern gets to keep going again.

So the iTouch thing.  My GPS watch doesn't really do step count or stride measurements so it's useless if I'm running nowhere indoors.  Before I got my GPS watch I have been using the Nike+running app with a sensor that I bought separately to keep track of my runs.  Although the sensor works quite well I really wanted a map of where I went, and make my own routes, so the urge that got me the watch.  But during my recent runs something went wrong.  The sensor was obviously working, as it accurately tracked my pace, and the timer on the app was happily ticking away, but no distance was measured.  It happened twice and didn't make any sense.  I ended up fixing it by the oldest tech method: I turned my iTouch off and back on again.  And it worked...  My iTouch is old and has been behaving strangely lately.  I hope it doesn't die before I get an iPhone sometimes next year (although how I'm supposed to track my treadmill runs with an iPhone without holding it while running is beyond me).  But I really hope the iTouch won't ever poop out, as least not before the battery on my sensor dies.

More running news: I got another pair of running shoes.  I know, I know.  Although I haven't been running regularly lately at all (I even lost interest in my Runner's World magazines) I still have the urge to buy running-related gears.  Since the pond disaster I have purchased another pair of sports capris, sports bra, and running jacket.  And now the shoes.  They are Saucony Cohesion 7, not very high end within the brand and they were on sale on Amazon.  But I've always wanted to try a pair of Saucony, and ended up buying a pair of size 9.  They fit fine; felt slightly bigger than my normal shoes but not by too much, and after replacing the insoles with my own Dr. Voldemort (You-Know-Who, get it?)'s special insole they actually felt really good.  I did almost 4 miles today in them and my foot didn't really act up at all during my run.  My Archille's heels were unhappy, not sure if it's because of the shoes or the insoles, or just because I'm overweight and don't exercise regularly.  But my plantar fascia always acts up during my previous runs and it usually takes a week of not doing any more exercise for it to be normal again for the following Monday.  So hopefully with the new shoes my foot won't be as agitated and I can get more runs in during the rest of the week.

On the food side, lots of fall-related recipes tried over the last two months, mostly desserts.  Will dedicate a separate post on that.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Foodie Diary: Moon Cakes~

Ignoring the shameful fact that I have not been updating my blog as I really should (I even went to the gym more than a few times since my last post!), the food related posts on this blog has really been lacking, which is in no way an accurate reflection of what is actually going on in real life.  I have been trying quite a few new recipes recently, and I've only neglected to write about my culinary escapade is because although they are new recipes to me, they really aren't anything to write home about.

I recently upgraded my computer (finally) to Mavericks for the sole reason so that I can download Microsoft's Onenote.  It's essentially a digital notebook but the layout is quite amazing and very user friendly.  Thus I've started a recipe notebook and it's been growing quite robustly.

But anyway, today is the Mid-Autumn Festival, a Chinese holiday that falls on the lunar 8/15, a day that supposedly has the brightly full moon.  It's sort of like the Thanksgiving in America, a time when people get together with their families and to cherish the company of each other.

Another important tradition is to eat the moon cake.  It's an extremely sweet pastry filled typically with things like red bean paste, lotus paste filled with salted duck egg yoke, and weird things like nuts and even seaweed.  Personally I never really liked moon cakes, for I dislike any desserts that are overtly sweet.  But I like traditions and I like to try and make these things myself.  One of the few advantages of living in the middle of nowhere is that you have the motivation to make all the things you want to eat yourself.  Hey, it's more fun than doing experiments in the lab.

So at some point a few weeks ago I was inspired to make snow-skined moon cake, which is a more recently invention that involves very translucent crust made of sweet rice flour and fun, non-traditional filling that can involve fruit, chocolate, and even ice cream.  I somehow got into my head that it would be easier to make than traditional moon cake, but I was probably more interested in the non-traditional fillings.  I really don't like red bean paste or lotus paste.  My teeth are hurting just thinking about them...

Finding the ingredients proved to be a challenge that involved translations, wikipedia-ing, and endless search in the local supermarket.  I don't have easy access to an Asian market but our local store is more like a whole foods in that they like to carry weird stuff.  In the end I found everything I needed, or their appropriate substitute.

I first made the snow-skinned moon cake with green tea flavored crust and mango filling.  I don't have a pot for steaming so I followed a microwave recipe and although I followed everything to the letter the crust never came out to be what I expected.  The dough is very sticky, and the moon cakes don't look right if I add enough flour to make it unsticky.  In the end they came out not looking like the moon cakes they should look but rather like a bun with a very thick base.  They didn't look very nice since the green color made them look moldy.  But they tasted quite nice.

Normal people who make their own moon cakes usually all own their own mold so the finished products have all kinds of patterns on them.  I ended up ordering a set from Amazon but I don't think it's going to arrive till the end of the month (by then any spirit of the holiday will be long gone).  So for now all of my moon cakes take the shape of a fat disk.  I should've made my next set of moon cakes as squares but I had a brain fart when making them so they are also round.

I was unhappy with my unsuccessful experiment with the snow-skinned moon cakes (if you see a commercially available product you will see how much I have failed), so I turned to try the more traditional kind.  The recipe I got from a friend called for custard fillings mixed with crushed salted duck egg yolks, but since they pack enough cholesterol to kill a small army, and can really be found anywhere near here, I decided to use shredded coconut instead.  Because of the unsweetened but also unsalted coconut my fillings came out to be too sweet, and I forgot to add the egg when making my crust (which I suspect made the product look so pale, but overall I was quite happy with this next experiment.

The color scheme was quite unfortunate since both the coconut filling and the crust turned out to be very white.  But they tasted great (confirmed by every friend who was too polite to refuse free food), a tad too sweet but falls normally within moon cake standards.  There is a small party on Wednesday for a friend who is going back to China and I think I will make another batch.  This time I'm thinking of making the filling a bit different and more colorful by substituting some flour with cooked purple yams.  We'll see how things turn out.

中秋快乐 everyone~~

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Running Hiatus: a quick update

It's been a hellish nightmare since my last short run around the pond.

Surprising it may be (to me), it's only been two weeks since my last run.  But it seems so much longer than that.

The day after my run I could feel that something wasn't right.  The right side of my right foot felt like it was spasming.  I didn't pay too much attention to it.  I could feel it while walking all the way to work, and throughout the day.  Finally I had to admit to myself that it wasn't just a simple spasm.  I could feel the pain with every step I took, to the point that I was limping up and down the stairs and the hallway.  I didn't know what it was; it didn't feel like a regular plantar fasciitis, or any other foot injuries that I could think of.  It was like something went wrong with whatever connective tissue that went through the bottom of my foot, connecting my heel bone to my little toe.  Just that one part of the foot.  And I know it had something to do with my heel because I felt better walking on my toes.

It got so bad that I decided to leave work early and just get to home.  I didn't know what I was going to do once I got home.  But I desperately wanted to be in the private comfort of my home and just ice, warm, and massage the hell out of my foot.  In the end through some twisted logic my friend and I decided to get a pedicure, since part of the service involved a foot massage.  I left the pedicure with a nice shade of forest green on my nails, but in terms of massage I got next to none.

The next morning my foot got worse as I walked to work and I decided that I finally had to see someone.  I made an appointment with our health center, and though I requested for someone who may be specialized in sports medicine I ended up with some random doctor because she was the only available doctor for the time slot I could do.

The appointment was not very helpful at all.  She basically told me that I have a severe case of plantar fasciitis, which is sort of a relief since it's not something else I picked up, just a worsening of what I already had.  She told me to take a bunch of ibuprofen for an extended period of time, and at the same time do a bunch of stretches.  I basically learned nothing new from that meeting, except for the confirmation of what I had and the permission to take huge doses of drugs.

Since then I haven't been running at all.  I went to yoga once and was pretty sure I screwed up my foot even more during the class.  I thought about going to the gym and do something that's less impact on my foot but got lazy.  I gained a few pounds back from my inactivity.  I took the pills regularly for about 3 days before giving up the regime, and I wasn't even doing my stretches regularly.  All in all I was just being a bad patient.

I also got a pair of Dr. You-know-who's half insoles that promised instant pain relief for plantar fasciitis, and it worked to some degree.  I put them in whatever shoes I was wearing and they did help with the pain relief a lot.  Until recently.  So I decided that it's finally time to take my injury more seriously.

I don't want to get complacent with my injury.  I hated that my weight is slowing getting back to my pre-run days.  I was sort of depressed that because of those few pounds I couldn't fit into the clothes I was able to wear.  I get sad that we have beautiful running weather right now and I'm out of the game.  I'm angry at myself for not going to the gym like I planned to.  I know now that I'm not going to run that half-marathon, but I would be so disappointed in myself if I give up running altogether.

I've been good with my pills and stretching today.  This is my first step toward recovery and toward getting back to running.  I will get back to being active again and I will go back to running soon.  The weight has to go down and the fat has to be burned.  There is no excuse anymore.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Exercise Diary: Run, Lazy bum, Run!

July has not been a good month in terms of exercising.  With my friend's motivation I did manage to go to yoga almost every week, but on the running front I really have been lacking.  And I fear that I was on the verge of giving up.

I have often asked myself why.  Why altering getting yourself home at a reasonable hour you refused to put on your gym clothes and go out again.  Why did you stay up late when you said you wanted to go for a weekend morning run?  Why do you keep making excuses?  Why are you so determinant in the evenings, promising yourself that you would go out and run tomorrow and when tomorrow comes you choose to waste the evening away?

I don't think I will be ready for my half-marathon in October.

I think my main reason is my foot.  I still haven't gotten it checked out.  I'm still trying to find a good way to describe my injury, and I'm terrified at the possible solutions that would be given back to me.  Sometimes the pain worsens for no reason, and other times I get the false hope that it may be getting better.

The other reason is that I'm terribly self conscious about being seen.  If I can have my way I would get up at 5 every morning and run on empty streets (but I can't get up in the morning).  I don't want to run into anyone I know.  I don't want to be seen by strangers.  I don't know why, but I am more self-conscious about my slow running and my terrible body image than ever before.  I even went back on the treadmill, but the boredom was worse.

So yesterday I made a decision that I would just have to put on my running clothes and RUN!  And I sort of picked a bad time to do it.  I had a 30 minute incubation period during one of my experiments that I thought would be perfect for a 2-mile pond run.  So I did.  And I went.  And I finished the two miles within thirty minutes.  And even factoring in the time to get in and out of my gym clothes I was only a few minutes over.  I guess running-wise it wasn't too bad, but the subsequent failure of my experiment sort of brought the whole experience down.  I was running terribly late, my experiment didn't go the way I wanted, and I had to postpone my meeting with my friend for almost 20 minutes.

But after all that, I did go out a run.  It wasn't a long run but I thought it was a good start.  My foot, surprisingly, didn't bother me during or after the run.  It did start to feel terrible in the evening.  I iced and massaged it, but I don't think that made it any better.

With the help of Garmin Connect training plan (oh, did I tell you, I got a new GPS watch~  More on that later I think), I decided to embark on a half-marathon training.  It's a 16-week plan so I won't be ready for my half in October, but we will see how it goes.  I still have a few weeks till the registration deadline, so I still have some time to decide whether I want to do it for real.

We'll see how it goes~~

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Exercise Diary: Short run, then some badminton

  • Yesterday was beautiful!  But since it was still too warm when I left work, and that I wanted to play badminton, and I wanted to do a short run, I decided to run on the treadmill.  
  • The fitness room was air conditioned and felt so nice!
  • I was surprised to see that most of the treadmills were occupied.  
  • There was a sad spinning class with one very enthusiastic instructor and what looked like 2 students.
  • Running on the treadmill was SO boring!  It definitely takes more effort to keep yourself motivated while running on the treadmill.  1.26 miles never felt so painfully long, even with an entertaining podcast in your ears.  
  • Then again, I ran almost a whole mile at a faster pace than one I would normally have done (even with the 1% incline to mimic real roads).
  • My workout was cut short (only 16 min) because I was overall running late, and badminton had begun for almost an hour.  So I left the air conditioned room and went downstairs..
  • Which is hotter and more humid than outside!  The basketball courts are one of the places in the building that's not air conditioned, and it felt terrible.  What's worse, because of the lightness of the shuttlecock we can't even blast the super giant fans on.  So essentially we were playing in a sauna.
  • I thoroughly had my butt kicked by a friend.  I felt so angry and stupid: she's 7 years older than me and a mother, and she's got better figure and played better.  
  • I upset my foot again during the play and had to stop and massage my foot a bit.
  • After taking a shower upon getting home I iced my foot with my frozen water bottle and it felt slightly better.  Still debating whether I should go see someone.
  • Finally cooked.  The peppers, after sitting in the fridge for a week, were surprisingly still edible.  My dried tofu, on the other hand, wasn't so lucky.  It got moldy and I was quite upset.  What a waste of food.  

Monday, July 21, 2014

This Week on the Net (7/14-7/20)

Wasn't even going to do one, but saw this new concept of spinning class and thought I would share.
  • Soulcycle.  Found a new concept of exercising, and this is called soul cycle.  It doesn't have any studios near where I live, and the closest one is in Chestnuthill in MA.  I decided that it's too far away from me and too much hassle just to go experience it.  But there are a good number of studios in New York, so maybe the next time I go home I will try a class.  It's basically a spinning class with a lot of other workout added to it, such as yoga-like stretches, and strength training involving weights.  They also emphasize the importance of upbeat music, and the fact that the classroom is lit not with lights but candles, to make you feel private about what you are doing.  Upon first glance it felt very hippie and pretentious, but I think it can be a much better workout than just a boring spinning classes (which I've never attended).  And as far as I know it doesn't require extra, novel equipment.  Maybe in the near future our school's PE classes will introduce a soul cycle class in addition to the traditional spinning classes it already offers.  

Trail Challenge and Foot Rest

My friend and I are currently doing a Trial Challenge that explores the different trails we have in our town.  While it is called a "challenge", all 7 trails featured in the program are very easy and short to do, as the event is targeted mainly for families with small children.  We still thought it would be fun since, hey us students never explore our own town, and we need the excuse to get outside this summer.  It is a bargain too, because for $3 a piece we each got a water bottle, a trail challenge T-shirt, a booklet with all the instruction, and an invitation to the end-of-summer party with a chance to enter a raffle if we finish at least 5 of the 7 trails by then.

Last Friday we did our first trail.  It was a short (0.8 mile), easy trail toward the south end of our town, tucked secretly behind some big ass mansions we didn't know existed.  The trail was very well maintained with signs on tree barks that guide the hikers.  It curves around the edge of the Connecticut River and offers a very nice view of the water.  The trail was covered with pine needles and moss, but all we got in terms of wild life was a squirrel and the voice of a very pretty-sounding bird, which suited me.

As a way to verify that you did each trail, at the midpoint of each trail is a sign with a symbol for you to copy down.  We found it nailed on a tree near the water.  It was a simple outline of an animal but it was hard to copy convincingly without anything to lean against on.  On our way back we took a short cut that led us to a cemetery that was actually very lovely and well maintained.  The trail was very short, so short that the way getting to and from the trail from our office took longer than walking the trail itself.  But it was a very nice start and we couldn't wait to explore the rest of the trails.

Despite the short and easy hike, and the fact that I was wearing my trail running shoes for the occasion, I was still stepping on uneven grounds and occasionally placed my right foot right on a tree root, and it seriously hurt my foot again.  It was an alarming pain that lasted through most of Friday night.  I don't even know what it is anymore.  It sort of emanates from the heel and spread to the rest of the mid foot, and the pain comes in waves.  I iced my foot and it only moderately helped.  I stayed home for most of Saturday, but the foot still hurt on Sunday so that I gave up on running on Sunday.  Just like plantar fasciitis the pain sometimes goes away after walking or running for a bit, but we all know that it doesn't mean it's actually getting better.  I'm still debating whether I want to go see someone, and I'm kind of reserved on the idea because I really don't know how to describe what I have, and I fear what their solution might be.  I don't think any bones are broken but I certainly don't want surgery, and I don't want them to tell me that I have to rest and not run for an extended period of time (granted I didn't run at all last week, mostly due to laziness).  I still want to do a half-marathon in October but I really haven't been training at all, and my reluctance to train seriously is largely due to the foot.  Perhaps if I get it checked out I would make better informed decisions, as the deadline for registering for the half is approaching.  I just don't want to look like a loser and having to tell people that I hurt myself from not-very-serious running or worse, having to be on crutches or something.  We'll see, maybe I will make an appointment to see someone.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Exercise Diary: Quick Yoga Post

Went to yoga yesterday.  I kind of had to go since I haven't been to yoga in two weeks, plus I got a free class because it was my birthday last week.

Summer really is a time when everyone is outside doing their physical activities.  When we got to the studio around normal time we were the first ones there.  Granted eventually the class filled up pretty well, and there were more than a few first timers, but overall it really is best to be outside.

Also partly because the studio was as hot and humid as outside.  If we are smart we should hold classes outside about an hour before heavy rain so they will save some money on their heating bill.

It was a good class over all.  My balance, especially on my right leg, still sucks, but otherwise I do feel stronger and somewhat more flexible.  Tried to do a back bend but failed miserably.  Perhaps if I lose another 10 pounds and strengthen my arms a bit I could eventually do it.

The yoga studio offers a rewards program, so you get points for attending classes and referring friends and such, as a way to motivate people to attend classes and get their friends to attend classes.  I had previously already earn enough points to get a studio logo T-shirt, which I assume was made mostly from cotton (there was no tag) but has a slightly different feel.  It feels thinner and silkier and clings to your body more, so I was always assuming that it has at least some polyester in it.

I wore my shirt proudly into the studio since I couldn't put it on when I was 10 lbs heavier.  As I said, the shirt clings to the body so it brings out the worst part of your torso.  I had tried it on in the studio's makeshift changing room before I took it home with me but it was tried on in haste and I didn't realize how much my stomach was showing.  But now I can wear it and not feel conscious about wearing it so  I have really made some progress regarding weight loss.

The shirt, however, was not good for warm yoga.  It's slippery, so it gets almost slimy with sweat.  And the sweat stays, to the point that I saw giant sweat stains on my back and under the arms when I took it off afterwards.  And it's thin, so it doesn't even absorb that much sweat, most of it went on  to the mat.  It was overall very yucky.  I still like the shirt, but I probably won't ever wear it again to yoga.

Anyhoo.  Just want to put it on record that I went to yoga yesterday.  It was a good class and it felt easy.  We started out really slow, probably because of all the newcomers, but I did get a workout from it, so all is good.

Monday, July 14, 2014

A weekend in volunteering

Actually, I was lucky enough that I got Sunday to rest (which I didn't nothing but).  But I was on my feet for more hours than I care to remember on Friday and Saturday, as a volunteer for the 33rd Annual Prouty, which is an event that raises funds for cancer research for the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, specifically the Norris-Cotton Cancer center.  It's one of the biggest event for the hospital and the nearby towns, to the point that our yoga studio had to cancel classes for Friday and Saturday because everyone is out Prouty-ing.  Started as a cycling event done by a few nurses inspired by one cancer patient, Audrey Prouty, the event has since grew and expanded to include walking, rowing, and golfing ("but honey, I have to go play golf this Saturday, it's for charity!").  I don't know how many countless individuals and teams participate in the event, but for volunteers alone they wanted a few thousand, and this year I was lucky to be one of them.

I was volunteering at the Prouty Gear for both Friday and a good part on Saturday.  Prouty Gears are gifts (smaller things like beach towels and tote bags and larger items like long sleeve running shirts, bike jerseys, and Ibex vests) for people who have raised at least $500 for the Prouty.  Each $500 constitutes as a point, and the more points a person has earned, more and better gifts can be selected.  I was at first suspicious of the whole point conversion system, since divisions by 500 isn't that difficult.  I realized how wrong I was when I started to regularly seeing those who came by with 5, 10, and even 20 points trying to redeem their gifts.  Just because I suck at asking for money from other people doesn't mean that everyone else are just like me.  And I regularly got people who knew the Gear system better than me, and those who were bored by the same gifts every year, and would rather donate their points to other people (which was not a policy we hold, so those people essentially wasted their points).

I was the designated computer person who is responsible for ordering anything that people wanted that we either didn't not carry or had run out.  It wasn't a hard job, and being the first night, there weren't that many ordering that needed to be done.  So after standing there awkwardly for a bit and filed cards for the rest of the volunteers, I became one of them, taking in point tickets and greeted the fund raisers.  It was fun, and it felt like working at TJMaxx again.  It was simple, repetitive, but never the same.

Went back for more of the same thing the next day.  Almost 5 hours of getting numb by the large sums of money that people have raised, and realizing that despited their, or their friends' wealth, when it comes to selecting merchandises, some people can be just as bitchy as those who shop at TJMaxx.  I was kind of surprised by the pickiness showed by some, and the surprising patience and apathy showed by the same people when I told them that if I reorder something it wouldn't get to them for 6-8 weeks.  They didn't care.  Either they knew already or they really didn't care about having it at that moment.

Then at 3 I went outside and helped at the Prouty Store tent, which is open for everyone who wishes to buy stuff (many had tried to buy the Gear items we had on display, and I must say that comparing both, I would rather raise a large amount of money and get the Gear stuff, they are soooooo much nicer!).  I now know that the roads open at 4 and all the riders and walkers have to be back to the finish line at 4pm, and that the food tent closes at 5pm, so I don't feel too bad about having to take inventory almost as soon as I got to the store tent.  But since I was inside for majority of the time and missed the biggest crowds and the most fun, it was kind of sad when I did get out and had already had to pack up.  I did catch some late arrivals as those, I assume they were doing the 100-miler, finally made their way back to scattered but enthusiastic applause.  I did feel bad for a pair of riders who got back after 4pm and received nothing.  We were in the process of packing up, no one was at the finish line to greet them, and they rode in, parked their bike, walked around, and left again.  I was merely following directions, but presumably the woman in charge of the tent had been doing it for much longer.  She was all about keeping herself busy and getting things done, so she was more focused on counting all the merchandises, getting them packed and ready for storage.  We talked about how we need to thank all those who raised money and rode and walked on the day, but when we get down to business it's all about efficiency.  I think most people understand that and accept it as is.

I was scheduled to work till 6, but we were done by 5:30.  As I looked back on the now empty tents and the last remaining people bringing back the final boxes, I have to accept that while it's a big festival where the whole town got together and do this one thing, it's still a fund raising event.  At the end of the day, it's about the number after the dollar sign.  I still had fun, and I got to meet more people who are part of the community, rather than college students who are just here temporarily.  Somehow meeting people who encompass a wider range of age and experience, who are together because of where they live rather than their age, gave me back a sense of community and family that I have been missing for a long time.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Exercise Diary: Quick Post, Quick Run

Just came back from a week of vacationing at home.  Not that we went anywhere special, but just by being in the Big Apple after months in the mountains is a big refreshing change.

Didn't do any runs while at home, but I did walk quite a bit in NYC.  On my birthday I wondered in lower Manhattan and walked a total of ~80 blocks and almost gave myself a heat stroke.  And after I got back I found that I lost another pound.  Can't say that I complain!

I was very much hoping that I would get a new cell phone (and a new plan) when I was home.  But what I found instead was that our old family plan contract, which my parents signed two years ago in the summer, doesn't actually end until the end of the year.  And while we could terminate it early and switch, we are no longer in a hurry so we didn't end up doing anything but had a lot of discussions.  Basically for me is that I'm not getting a new phone right now and I still don't have data coverage in my plan (and since I'm actually not paying for any cell phone bills I don't have the right to complain).  What I did, however, was that I got a cheap Android phone in the hopes that it would be a better alternative to my iPod Touch.  It wasn't, since the phone is not compatible to either Nike+Running or Zombies, Run! apps, so if I want accurate records of my runnings I would still have to use my iTouch with the Nike sensor.  Oh well.

I was able to download some other apps, but none of them work properly without access to internet.  So while I did a short run yesterday, all I have is the amount of time I spent running, and no other data. One of these days I will just have to suck up and get a GPS watch to end all hassles.  Don't know when, but some day.

Did about 3 miles today yesterday.  I was supposed to go for a volunteer training and it was only a short distance away, so I ran there and back.  I had to go running at 5pm, which was not ideal but what could I do?  I did became very aware of every piece of shade on the way, which there were more than I anticipated.  It was nice under the shade, and there was a light breeze, but I really don't like the blazing sun and 5pm is not a good time for running.

Workout for Thursday, 7/10:
Time: ~34 min
Distance: ~ 3 miles (According to google maps anyway.  The time also seemed right.  But it felt like a very short way away so I still can't be convinced that it was actually 3 miles to and back).

Monday, June 30, 2014

This Week on the Net (6/23-6/29)

I know I skipped a week, just wasn't up to it.  Summer is here, and the blogosphere is filled with tips on running safely in the heat.  Marathon training season is also here, so there are a lot of posts on how to train for a marathon or half-marathon as well.

  • Der Scott: How to Run While Injured.  Sad but true.
  • Running in the heat; why you are more likely to get a heat stroke during shorter races.  Very interesting reads on how the sweat glands work and how the body takes care of over heating.  
  • Training for you first half-marathon. Super appropriate~
  • Mount Washington Road Race 2014.  I've heard of this race because some members of our local running club have run it in the past and were featured in their past newsletters.  But apparently it's a much bigger deal since the most recent race was featured on the Runner's World website.  It's a scary ass race of 7.3 miles going all the way up Mount Washington.  It's one big hill.  You climb for an hour or two up on one, one, 12-20% grade hill.  I need time to let that sink in.
  • No difference between men and women on weight loss?  Runner's World called our attention to a recently published study that monitored the caloric intake and output of a group of overweight men and women and found that given equivalent caloric intake and exercise output the men and women lose the same percentage of body fat.  Essentially the conclusion of the article is that men and women are capable to lose the same amount of body fat given the same eating and exercise regiment.  It was an interesting study, but it was more interesting to read the comments below the article.  Many people still don't believe it given their anecdotal experiences, and others use it to prove that women have a harder time to lose "weight" than men.  I think I agree with all those who comment this way, since it does sort of prove that given the same regiment, women would lose less than men, poundage-wise.  So when they step on the scale there is still a difference.  But in terms of percent body fat it's the same, which in my opinion is more important.  I'm very frustrated by those who are obsessed by the number that appears on their scales.  I often ask people if they want to be healthy and weight more or sickly and getting to their goal weight as an example, hoping they would realize their ridiculous obsession.  Yet at the same time I step on my own scale several times a day, taking joy when the number becomes lower.  I think that's because I've not reached my goal body shape that I'm happy with.  I think once I reach a healthy weight I would no longer be obsessed.  
  • Oatmeal's comic on marathon running.  Everyone seems to be sharing this excerpt of the upcoming marathon-themed book by Oatmeal comics.  Since I saw it first on the most recent Runner's World issue I was unimpressed when everyone was raving about it on the internet.  But it's still pretty funny the second time I read it.  Do go on to his website and read the multipart comic strips on how he started running.  

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Exercise Diary: Best Yoga Class Ever~

Recently I've been on this bad procrastinatory cycle, where I put off going to yoga class for two weeks and then go again with great trepidation for being so out of shape yoga-wise.  Today was no different.  I went back to the yoga studio for the first time in two weeks, my thighs still hurting from Sunday's run, and I was worried about how out of shape I was going to be, how hot and sweaty I was going to be after I was done, and how miserable the windowless, humid basement studio felt in my mind.

I was very pleasantly surprised.

Because of the beautiful summer weather that finally greeted the Upper Valley, and because of the summer term in this college town, today's class was only half filled.  We were able to spread out nicely.  In addition, although the studio is still heated for its class it actually feels cool and breezy at times so it's not humid and yucky.  In the two week when I was absent they managed to paint a nice pale blue and white tree on the orange wall across one side of the room so it looked less ugly, and the tree was very tastefully done.

The class was awesome as well.  We started slow, in the child's pose, did a bunch of breathing exercises to get us into the rhythm, and gradually went into downward facing dog.  I don't know what it was, but by staying in push up high plank for a bit longer than usual I was able to take better control of my pose and my downward dog was better, my arms straighter, my back more arched, and my head dropped straight down so that for the first time in my life I was able to breathe deeply and easily in this pose.  And it was a revelation.  It was so awesome that my breathing was improved overall throughout today's class.

There were some parts of the class that really reminded me of how sore my legs still are from the running two days ago, specifically the chair post, the chair twist, and the crescent lunges.  Not only were they painful, they heated up my legs so much that my sweat glands were working over time.  My legs felt like squeezed sponges after we got out of those poses and it felt like water was pouring out of every pore into my capris.  But luckily we didn't do endless crescent lunges today so while I felt accomplished that I got through the poses they didn't seem to drag on.  Instead we took it easy in between with runner's lunges, which is just the crescent lunge with the back knee dropped down, and warrior II, which holds an infinite numbers of variation on its own.  We didn't do a lot of balance related poses like the tree, the airplane, or the eagle poses, but I suspect my balance is still my weakest part that seem to regress with my infrequent class attendance.

I also felt that my running has somewhat strengthened my control of the different poses.  I now have a much easier time with all the different lunges than before, and I feel that my base is much stronger.  I really like this instructor  because she always took time to work on our core.  She is the only instructor who made us do crunches, and I'm really glad of the opportunity.  We also did a short planks when we were in between the dolphin pose, which was easy for me since I always try to do minute long planks on my own.

And most thankfully, my foot pain only acted up once during one of the crescent lunges we did and afterwards it never bothered me again.  My ankles and Archilles tendons were behaving, and my hips were more flexible than I had anticipated.  Still sucked at all forms of inversions but that's no surprise.  I felt so cleansed afterwards.  And I wasn't the only one.  My friend who went with me thought it was an excellent class as well.

When I run my body feels lighter, happier, and more effortless after about 2.5 miles.  Although my speed never goes up I always enjoy the later part of my run much more.  And for the first time, I experienced the same thing in yoga.  As we got to the end of out class the instructor was talking about the homestretch and finishing strong, but I found that I didn't need that to motivate me because I felt I could go on forever.  It was such a strange but familiar feeling, I was quite proud of myself.

I don't know what happened today that culminated into such a wonderful class, but there were a few things I think I could try again to achieve the same result.

1. Keep running.  Aerobic exercise or not, running has definitely strengthened my leg muscles.
2. Keep doing those sporadic core exercises, especially planks.  I don't know if it real but I feel my arms are getting stronger judging by the downward dog and its preceding poses.
3. Eat a light lunch on the day.  I didn't cook a lot for today so all I brought was some rice and uncooked cucumber mixed with salt, pepper, chili flakes, and sesame oil.  I had a small bag of Cheeze-its as snake about an hour before class since I was starving by then.  But the light and carb/veggie rich lunch really helped to make me feel light, maybe strong as well?
4. While I get the merit of heated yoga I also really appreciated the light breeze in the middle of the class. I sweated a lot but didn't feel too dehydrated afterwards.
5. Speaking of hydration, I drank a lot of water before going to class and maybe that also helped,  given the ample seasonal articles now coming out about running in the heat.

These things aren't hard to replicate.  Besides the light breeze in the classroom I have control over everything else I think contributed to today's awesome class.  So next time I must repeat the same things, hoping I can replicate the same result.  Doesn't always happen in lab, but I really hope it will happen for yoga. 

Monday, June 23, 2014

Exercise Diary: No More Trail Runs, or Runs with Friends

I've been slacking off with my running (and exercising in general) last week.  I only did one short run on Monday, and didn't go to any yoga classes, despite the nice weather.  I've been using my foot as an excuse.  It still hurts even with just normal walking, and regardless of what shoes I wear (from the heavily cushioned running shoes to flat sneakers) I don't feel any significant relief with any one pair.  I don't know if it's still plantar fasciitis, or if it's my heel spur (I didn't know that there's this calcified little hook at the bottom of your foot until I saw an ad for heel wraps that are supposed to help with it), or if it's anything worse, like a stress fracture.  But it's been weeks since I first wrecked my foot and if anything my recent trail runs have made it worse.

After being cooped up for most of the week I decided it was time to go for a run on the weekend.  And on Sunday I went, with a bunch of people.  Ever since my friends heard that I started running they've been talking about doing runs together, and I've been resisting (subtly and sometimes unintentionally) for as long.  I'm still an extremely slow runner, and I like my slow pace.  My heart and lungs can't take a quicker pace, and I usually burn out if I try to follow someone else's pace.  But this time I agreed to go because there was a huge group of us, and it was a good motivation to get me off my butt.

Long story short, it was a disaster.  For me.  The others did splendidly.  Right after we started I could feel that I was going way faster than I'd liked, and I couldn't possibly hold a conversation at that pace.  After crossing two intersections I slowed down, and gave up on ever catching up with the pact.  Even then I was feeling the toll, and after climbing up a hill I was beat.  It was a bad start and I wasn't feeling good that day.  My stomach was full, my body was heavy, and I've been out of it for too long.  It was embarrassing.

And I think we got lost for a bit.  We sort of agreed on a route, and after losing sight of everyone I just went at my own pace around the route we had sort of agreed on.  I ended up walking the last quarter mile with a friend who was new to running and was overheating, and we took a detour to stop by our labs.  I particularly wanted to go to lab since I left my iPod there, which meant that I was running without any ways to track my run.  I know the route and I know approximately how far I ran, and honestly I don't want to know how I did since I did horribly and it's probably a good thing that it wasn't recorded.  But I like to feel "right" when I run, and I don't want to be constantly thinking about how I'm uncomfortable when I'm running.

After getting rehydrated and having my iPod back in lab, I decided to go for another run by myself, just a short run around the pond to make me feel better about myself.  I ended up going to the Pine Park trail  again since it's a nice 1.5 mile loop with shades and interesting terrains.  The run was nice and slow, and when I finished the loop it felt too short.  But I did seriously screw up my foot again.  It was inevitable to step on uneven ground with all the rocks and tree roots sticking out from the ground and at times there were some very alarming sharp pains emanating from my right foot.  I had to limp at times afterwards and today, and I iced my foot for a very long time last night.  I'm seriously debating whether I should go see someone and maybe get an X-ray on it.

So the take home message of yesterday is, I'm going to keep away from the trails for a long while.  Running on paved roads does upset my foot, but not nearly as badly as the uneven trails.  And also, no more running with other people.  To be honest I don't even know why I do it.  I like to listen to my iPod on the run (mostly recently StarTalk Radio, Neil deGrasse Tyson's cosmic podcast), and I like to run at a crawling pace (or more precisely, I like to not follow someone else's pace), and I don't like to talk to people when I run.  I think I only do it because others are kind enough to try to appeal to my interest.  I've never actively sought out companies to run with.  And I guess I just don't want to disappoint my friends.  But I doubt that any of them will want to run with me again after yesterday.  Which is perfectly fine with me and all I hope is that they don't think too horribly of me.

Monday, June 16, 2014

This Week on the Net (6/9-6/15)

Another short week.  I hurt my foot during running on Tuesday and had been resting for the rest of the week, and my surfing the web also diminished because of it.  Still working on getting through the RW magazine.  I'm on the most recent issue now.
  • Running on soft surfaces not good for your knees?  This NYTimes article from 2011 seems to think so.  Apparently running on hard surface vs. soft affect the way people run, so it's like a completely different activity, instead of a less forceful one.  Running on soft surface seems to increase overall injury rate, which is different from knee injuries specifically, because of the irregularity of soft surfaces that make the runners injure their legs more easily.  I found this interesting because like so many other things runners believe in, it turns out to hold no scientific proof.  I've only paid attention to it because I've been running trails a lot recently with my friend who absolutely refuses to run on concrete roads because of her knee surgery a few years ago.  I could sort of feel what she says, because I do find it more enjoyable and easier to run on the softer trails.   And I do think that in terms of the impact on your knees it feels like less impact on soft trail than on hard roads.  So this article is not good enough to arm and persuade my friend to run one the road with me.  I'm still curious about the hardness of the surface on your knees without the distraction of other might-have-been injuries.  
  • Runner's World Heartbreak Hill Half & Festival.  Happened last weekend (6/6-8).  I was there briefly but didn't run, but plenty of bloggers did.  Katie from Runs for Cookies wrote a nice multi-part series on her experience there.  Many other bloggers did as well, but I've been following Katie's blog for a while so it was especially more fun.
  • Back of the pact woe?  One of the more popular, or well-responded, post relating to the RW Heartbreak Hill Half & Festival is Heather's account on running at the back of the pact.  She was sick on running day and was going to DNF before two other runners convinced her to walk the whole thing and walked with her.  A fast runner, she found for the first time what it was like to run at the pact, where people were slow but hardworking, where the volunteers were scattering, bored, or disappeared altogether, where the photographer just wanted to be done, where the traffic officers don't really care by the time you arrive, where the band pacts up, and where the cheering crowd is done for the day.  Running out of water, medals, and traffic control was apparently common from the responses of other back-of-the-pact runners, and this sad reality is just so disheartening.  On the most superficial level, all runner paid the same entry fee and therefore should get the same amount of service and respect, and on a deeper level, all runners should receive the same level encouragement and respect for completing their race.  

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Running Thoughts: slow and steady conquer hills

I've recently been running a lot with a friend from the lab, and whenever I run with her we hit the nearby trail.  There are a few reasons: 1) it's very shady in there so we would be avoiding the blazing sun or light rain, 2) it's beautiful in there with the trees, streams, and the Connecticut River, 3) it's soft, which my friend, who underwent knee surgery a few years ago, really liked, and 4) it's got some very nice hills for variety/ practice.  There are two big hills flanking either side of our 1.4-mile trail route, one  has an 80-foot climb over 0.2 miles, and the other has a ~60-foot climb over 0.1 mile.  I consider the former a longer, steadier incline, whereas the other I dubbed "the Big Ass Hill" (BAH).

From my first time running this trail (which was before I came to like running), to the workout we did today, I've climbed the BAH 4 times, and to my pleasant surprise each time I made progress.  The first time I broke my promise that I would run all the way up the hill and walked half the way, the second I went up with full speed ahead and nearly dropped on the ground afterwards, but did not stop to walk.  The last two times I instead adopted a "shut up and run" and "don't think too much about it" method and went up at a granny speed, slow and steady.  I still panted like a horse afterwards but at least I don't fear the hill anymore, and my serious panting started later and later on the hill run.

I've only gone up the steady, gradual hill twice, but there was also progress made between the first and the second time.  The first time I again went up too fast and had to stop and walk.  It didn't help that I ran into a professor in my department walking his dog with his wife right before we were about to go up the hill.  The second (and third, we went up there twice today) time was much better.  I again used the granny method, and just took my time.  And although I would not run out and start my own hill training class, and would still be too embarrassed to run up these hills with anyone else besides this friend, at least I'm going up there, and killing it.

I'm still working on running downhill.  One of the recent RW issue had a little thing on downhill running.  It emphasized the importance of practicing running downhills correctly, placing it right next to uphill training, and provided some tips on running correctly and proper training.  Granted I don't get to choose the hills I run, but I try to follow the directions the article gives on running it properly.  Head up, looking ~15-20 feet ahead, body tilting forward slightly, and all that jazz.  Still can't control the occasional pounding that goes straight to my hips, or my tendency to lean back when the hill is particularly steep (which apparently is bad for your knees).  As usual I can't control my speed.  Not that I don't enjoy flying down the hill like a running champ, I think I ultimately fear the speed more.

And I have to say, I really like going up the hills.  We did the trail loop 3 times today, which meant we had to choose which end we would start, and thus which hill we would run up twice.  We ended up running the steady, gradual one twice, and the BAH once, but I had a hard time making the decision, which means ultimately I really don't give a toss.  I fear the steady, gradual one more because I hadn't practice that one enough and the one experience was kind of miserable, but I see that as more reason I should practice it more.

I often thought that I like BAHs more than the steady and graduals because I like to get over the hills quickly rather than dragging it out, draining my breath.  But I think the truth is that I'm making one of my "Too" mistakes again: too fast.  We can all get up on a hill if we are not required a method.  In the worst case scenario we can just walk up there, though I think it actually takes more effort than slowly shuffle you way up.  But either way, the hills are not unconquerable, and even if you do run out of breath by the end you are likely not going to die, most likely, though I suppose there will always be exceptions.  But if you love your body more than going up a hill, chances are you will survive, and become better because of it.  Here's how I do it, at this stage of my inexperienced, out-of-shape running life.

1)  Mentally, you just can't think of it too much.  Of course you have to know that it's coming, either by running the route before or just by seeing that there is a hill coming up.  I don't think stumble onto a hill and having to adjust last minute helps at all.  But after you realized the fact that you have to go up a hill now, you have to forget, or at least, ignore the fact that you have a hill coming up.  Keep eyeing the top of the hill and worry about how steep it's going to be or how long it drags out is going to make you more nervous; your heart would beat even faster, and sometimes I get a wave of coldness over me that really doesn't help.  I do mentras in my head when I get distracted by the dauntingness of the hill.  The usual ones are either "don't think about it, just go" or "just shut up and run".  Sometime "it's not going to kill you" pops up and that's a good one too.  But the bottom-line is, just don't be too scared of it, it's just a frigging hill.

2)  Of course, I have neither the physical ability nor any competitive pressure to go up any hills really quickly, so I can afford to be fearless.  In terms of physically going up a hill without stopping to walk, it really all comes down to slow and steady.  Back straight, elbows back, head up, eyes straight (of course I stare just a few feet in front of me so I don't see how far I still have to go), and hop up like you are running up a long flight of stairs.  And go as slow as you can without stopping to walk, and just make your way up until you are down.  When going up the BAH my pantings still get louder and louder about halfway up, and sometimes my legs buckle when I make it all the way up, and today, when going down the same hill again just after about a minute of walking around catching up my breath, I had a momentary fear that my legs would lose control and that I would trip and tumble down the hill.  At some point I'll have to go back and work on my speed, but right now this is good enough.

I don't think I will enjoy running up a mountain.  I think running uphills uses a slightly different set of muscles than running on relatively flat ground and the change is refreshing.  So is going down hills, yet another set of muscles. I don't think anyone like to climb 30 flights of stairs, but there are some crazy runners out there who would race up Mt. Washington.  I'm definitely not physically there yet, nor would I like the constant, really long ass steady, gradual climb.  Variety is good.

Monday, June 9, 2014

This Week on the Net (6/2-6/8)

Sorry about this one lonely link.  Many things happened this past week that I wanted to mark down, but I kept debating whether it would be a thought-related link or a straight-share one, and in the end of course I gave up on posting them altogether.  It has also been a print heavy week for me, as I got two issues of Runner's World back to back, a back-logged May issue, as well as the newest July issue.  I also bought the RW's The Big Book on training for a marathon or half-marathon (title is botched, of course, but you get the idea) and have been reading that all weekend.  
  • 91-year-old set age record at San Diego marathon.  She did it in 7:07:42.  I don't know what to say after this...  There's this older guy who jogs around our football track almost everyday when I'm walking to work.  All I can say is, again, I wish I could do the same when I'm 91.  

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Exercise Diary: So much for the streak

I feel a bit embarrassed to say this, but as soon as I finished my last exercise post I stopped my run streak.  It was a conscious decision I made solidified by serendipitous events.  So now I'm back to normal with my running and yoga-ing, and I have to say that as cool as streaking is, run/rest really works for me better.

After Friday's run, my right foot and heel became unbearable, I could barely walk around in my apartment, and even when I was sitting I could feel the dull ache.  I don't know if it was plantar fasciitis or something else, but it was definitely from running in my minimal shoes on concrete, which was alarming since that was days ago, and because I was subjecting running pressures on my feet constantly afterwards, it never got a chance to recover.  I remember I was sitting in front of my desk that night, massaging my foot with an ice-filled water bottle, and thought about maybe I would take a day off the next day.  I had to seriously ask myself if that's what I wanted to do, whether the pain was worth giving up the streak.  I think at the end of the night I made peace with myself breaking the streak, deciding that I wouldn't make the extra effort to squeeze my run between my experiments, but still hoped that I would go at some point later, perhaps a quick mile in the gym.


Quick trip to the lab in the morning to finish some experiments, then volunteered at the local homeless shelter in the afternoon.  I made a really nice strawberry pretzel salad, which ended up being a big hit which was nice since it was the first time I tried it recipe, which in my past experience never worked well.  Will make it again later this week so hopefully there will be pictures.  I ended up buying my own mixer so now I can whip up all kinds of different things~

After the volunteering thing we drove past the movie theater and spontaneously decided to catch a show of the newest X-man movie.  The movie was fine, but I've never watching movies with friends, or anyone else ever.  My nutty friends bolted out of the theater as soon as the credits rolled.  Have they never watched an X-man movie in the theater before?  I was literally dragged out by them and later found out on the internet that I miss the Apocalypse tele-constructing the pyramid.  Seriously...  some people.

Anyhoo, it was the spontaneous movie going that completely destroyed my plan to run that day.  By the time the movie was over it was dark out and the gym was closed.  I took it as a sign and didn't bother agonizing over breaking the streak.


Sunday was lazy.  I had to go grocery shopping again to get stuff for the following Wednesday's cooking since I had to cook for a gathering that day.  It was so beautiful, and I got a lot of sleep the night before, but I could still feel my foot ache so I consciously took another day off.  I was ok with the decision, but at the same time I was a bit sad at how easily I can just let myself rest, and that I no longer get the urge to just go out and run when the weather is nice out.  It used to be the case all the time when I first started, but no more.  I still run, and I still like running, but a lot of the initial enthusiasm was gone.  I'm slipping and I think I know partly why, but it will take more work than just pure enthusiasm to get back to that initial passion.


My lab mates were surprised when I told them that I broke my streak so soon.  But I ended up running the pine trail again with my friend later that day.  Only when running with her I don't get lost.  I realized  where I veered off wrong last time during our run that day.  The run was short but kind of brutal, since she still runs much faster than me, and although I don't feel I was running much faster than I normally would, I was still running harder, and I had to fight off urges to stop and walk.  I guess if I was by myself I would've gone even slower or stopped at some point.  But I was glad that I ran the whole way.

It was kind of a special run for me.  It wasn't long, only 1.5 mile, and I chickened out of running another loop, but I couldn't help that I had made some real progress since the last time I ran the same loop.  It was before I became obsessed with running, it was when I still thought running was a torturous sport.  I ran with the same friend for absolutely no reason; she just asked me one day.  Before that run she made me promise to push her to run the whole way, and of course I was the one who collapsed and walked most of the way, while she ran ahead and made me eat her dust.  I don't know why she asked me to run with her, or why she never thought the run was a disaster.  But we ran the same loop again, and this time it was so different.  She still ran way faster, and picked up her speed while I slowed down toward the end, but I made the entire way.  And see her running faster and faster ahead of me pushed me to keep up as well.  My heavier-than-usual breathing was a testament to that.  It was good.  Since she's training for a mini-triathelon, we agreed to do two loops the next time, and 3 loops the time after that, to help her train for the running part.

But the most important thing I learned from this short run is that I felt good during the run.  While during normal everyday walking I still feel the heels of my feet hurting, I felt fine while running.  I was afraid that I had seriously injured myself, but it was fine, and although I wouldn't continue with the streak, I feel less afraid about continuing my running routine.


Went to yoga.  I was again fearful since I hadn't gone to yoga in two weeks.  It was a fine class.  There was a lot of sweating, I don't know what it was that we did, but there was way too much sweat for any hard core poses.  My balance is still off, especially my right foot, but the strength in my legs has definitely increased and I could perform most poses more powerfully.  Still need to be more flexible of course, and I'm still too big to twist myself in any skillful way.  I was going to run after my yoga class, but was way to tired after it.


Today's lunch was disappointing.  It was nothing but white rice and picked vege from a package.  But since my mixer and casserole arrived today, I'm anxious to start cooking again.  Hopefully there will be many new recipes and pictures to come!

Monday, June 2, 2014

This Week on the Net (5/26-6/1)

Short week of blogging and web surfing.
  • First week of RWRunStreak!  Right after the first day of the challenge there was a problem: the #1 person on the list somehow did 25 miles in just over an hour (a car had entered the challenge?).  So the next day the RWRunStreak Facebook page posted the following announcement:
    • "Many of you have asked why manually entered runs aren't accepted in the the #RWRunStreak streakerboard powered by MapMyRun. When similar challenges in the past have been opened up to manual entry, some people misused the feature and populated the board with unrealistic data. So, for that portion of the streak, we are going to stick with only verified runs.

      But please keep in mind that recording your runs there is not required to be considered part of the #RWRunStreak. All you need to do is run at least a mile day. This challenge is intended to be a fun way to promote healthy running habits. It's not a competition.

      Please visit our #RWRunStreak info page"
         People weren't happy.  Not everyone uses Nike+ like I do so when they run on the treadmill their workouts aren't recorded.  And apparently map my fitness program has many problems that prevent people from logging their runs accurately.  It's sad that a fun, motivating challenge has induced so much grief.  Good thing is that many people still vow to do the challenge regardless.  I don't know if they actually know that the ranking is absolute meaningless, and it's the number of streaks you do that qualifies for the sweepstakes in the end.  But whatever gets you running right?

  • There was a half/10K event in Kunming, China on May 25th.  More than 10 people got sick during the race and one person died after being rushed to the hospital.  Some friends relayed the news to me on an online chatroom, knowing that I'm obsessed with running at the moment.  I went and looked for a few articles myself.  Many people were blaming the organizers of the race, since apparently the promised water aid stations along the course were not there.  The insufficient water combined with the summer heat and the high altitude of the area caused many people to become sick.  I feel sorry for the person who died, apparently he's only an undergraduate student.  Many people were blaming heavily on the organizers, and there may be a lawsuit that will follow even with the waiver forms that every runner was required to sign prior to the race.  And this is not the first time people have become sick and died during a race.  Running has become a very popular sport in China, and with that many cities have organized races to satisfy the runners.  But China is still young in this area, and the organizers still have much to learn to efficiently pull off a successful race.  I was particularly excited when I heard about the Shanghai Marathon, since I'm originally from Shanghai.  The marathon happens in late October/ early November every year, but registration doesn't open until a month before the actual race, which to me is a huge surprise.  The New York Marathon happens around the same time each year, and entrant lottery draw happens as early as March.  This is just an example that shows how organized and well planned each race is, and with all the runners, their little teams of family and friends, as well as the residents of Shanghai, these are big events with amplified problems to consider.  Mistakes like the disappearance of aid stations when they were promised to runners, lack of information on the race location, and the over emphasis on the waiver form that is then used as a weapon for the organizers to shed responsibility are just a few things that Chinese marathon organizer have to learn to do better.  After all, running and racing is supposed to be healthy and fun, not a shortcut to death.
  • After reading about the death at Kunming 10K/half marathon, I was surprised to learn from a race recap of a Memorial Day 8K race that they ran out of water at the finish line water station.  Katie's brother had to save her sister some water, and it was a hot day.  I was surprised because it didn't sound like a big race and it's typically held on a warm day of the year.  I had been blaming on China's immaturity in race organization to make the fundamental and silly mistake of not preparing enough water at aid stations, but it seems that I am being myopic and ignorant in what's actually going on.  I've only been to one race (5K/10K) so far, which had about 300 participants, and although there was only one aid station on the course, there was more than enough water along the way and snacks and more water at the finish line.  And from all the other race recaps I've read it never seems to be a problem.  I was impressed that some races even posts the flavors of GUs they provide at the aid stations to better inform the runners as they prepare for the race.  At the same time I also realize that while every runners are required to sign a waiver form, the organizers never clearly stated their promised responsibility, even if it's some basic like the medical and water aid stations they say they will have.  We assume they will provide all of these necessities because of the registration fees we pay to enter the races, but they are not required to disclose a legal binding statement of any sort like we have to do.  

Friday, May 30, 2014

Exercise Diary: Streaking

Turns out it's not that hard to fit in a mile into your daily life.

Streaking in the rain

It's no wonder that runners are goal oriented.  Goals make you get off your bum and run.  Jen from Running Tangents have recently been wondering whether running marathons is bad for your health, and the most I got out of her post and the discussions that ensued is that sometimes people are so obsessed with their marathon goals they sacrifice their bodies to achieve them.  As they should, I totally understand.  Although I have no marathon experience to speak of, I too have felt addicted to go out and run, and I too have been annoyed at my pains and aches instead of making rest as my priority.  When we set a goal and go out and achieve it, it gives us meaning and helps us see our progress.

Luckily I haven't been injured, nor do I love running so much to the point of breaking myself to do it.  But ever since I began the Runner's World summer Run Streak challenge (Day 5 completed!), I've set aside my pickiness and went out on a heavily forecast day and ran in light rain.  Thank heaven it was only light rain, which actually felt nice on my arms and my hat.  I think I would feel more sorry for myself if it had began down pouring.  But before I decided to do the streaking challenge I would've never gone out in that weather and risk being rained on.  And I would've gone out that day if it wasn't for Memorial Day, and the gym being closed.  So I really didn't have a choice but I was completely at peace with it.

Though the run was nice and uneventful, I failed at keeping my promise of running quality miles.  Any nice and quiet loop around the area require first getting there from home, and that can be either a fraction of a mile to a mile and half.  By the time I started on the actual course I had already run a mile, which wasn't too bad, but then I ran into hills.  And more hills.  And a final big hill which I couldn't do last time and did even worse on Monday.  I was walking a lot way before the big hill.

It was disappointing to fail at uphills, because it makes the subsequent downhill running feel like cheating.  It was fun, oh it was so much fun, but it felt too easy, thus making me uneasy.

So day 1 was completed, but my goal of the quality mile failed quite miserably.

New Shoes!

I did not intentionally went out to get a new pair of running shoes so soon after my Brooks.  But I needed new, season appropriate shoes to replace my favorite boots that I wore all winter, and since I'm in lab for most of the day I can't wear flip flops or any other kind of open toe shoes.  I wanted a pair of light sneakers, hopefully something of good quality, since last time I bought light sneakers I got holes in my toe box before the summer was over.

So I pounced when I saw a deal on on a pair of Inov-8 F-lite.  They were originally retailed for $116, but got reduced all the way to $35 (and I had free Prime shipping).  After reading all the reviews and carefully selected my size, I clicked the "add to cart" button.  They arrived on Tuesday,  and I decided to run in them.

They are very light and minimalistic, and really breathable, so perfect for the summer.  Though advertised as fashion sneakers, many of the people who reviewed the shoes on Amazon use them for cross training and running.  So if I'm working toward minimalistic running, I thought these would be good shoes to start.

The mid foot area was very narrow, which does not quite fit my feet, but the fabric on top hugs my feet very snugly so my feet are secured but not pressured the wrong way, so they are still comfy.  And the triply blue/magenta color is both fun but still me~

Back onto the Mill

Did my Tuesday run in the gym on the treadmill.  I was not eating at the right time and really wanted a nap so when I woke up it was almost 9pm.  Plus I didn't want to do a long run again, so I went to the gym to do my quality mile.  This is the first time I went back to the gym since I began running outside, and once I was there, it wasn't so bad.

It was still stuffy, and the built in fan on the machine didn't really help but giving me this uncomfortable chill.  My mile was consistent but so boring; I can now safely say that even the most boring scenery outside is more fun than the gym.  I wasn't tired, but it was still hard to make the full mile when all you want is to be done.

The shoes were fine, I found them easy to run in and very light.

Not quite the minimalist

I had an evening engagement on Wednesday, so I brought my gym clothes to work so I can do a quick loop around the pond I had run when first started, just to get the mile in.  I ran in my Invo8 again, after a good run the day before.

It turned out that these shoes were NOT meant to be run on concrete.  This was the first time I realized so clearly the hardness of different surfaces.  With other big bulky cushioned shoes I never understood how it was such a big deal.  But after half a mile my heels were aching, the poundings were too much for my feet, and I went to the muddy edge of the road whenever possible.  Toward the end it got so bad that I avoid touching my heels to the ground altogether and were essentially running on tip toes, and finally finished my mile.  I ran the loop well, just over 5 mi/hr, which is my treadmill comfort zone.  But I could tell that my heels are screwed.

My right foot took it worse than my left.  By the end of the night my left foot had almost gone back to normal, but my right foot just refused to be happy.  I tried to massage my foot a bit, and was beginning to worry about this running everyday thing.  Maybe not giving yourself a rest is not the most brilliant idea in the world.

Running on tip toes also caused serious muscle aches in the back of my calves.  They were injury aches, but felt more like the muscle sores I experienced after my first hiking trip.  I guess if I ever want to work on my calf, I now know what to do.

Lost in the Woods

With my foot still hurting, I went out around the pond loop again on Thursday.  Because the weather is so nice I decided to venture into the Pine trail again, which is right next to the pond.  The trail is supposed to be 1.8 miles, so I thought it would be manageable but not over-working myself.

Long story short, I got lost again.  I was running among the trees for a good while and reached a fork.  An old lopsided sign pointed one direction with the words "walker/runner's track" so I followed it, and ended up on a paved trail designed for golf carts and walkers (the trail loops around our country club golf course).  There were people playing golf, and similar paved track everywhere, and I had no idea where I was.  There was no familiar landmarks, and just a faint sound of traffic that suggested the road next to our school building.  I followed a track for a bit, turned around, and somehow ended up right next to the road, about a mile away from my school building.  By that point I had already ended my run on my Nike+ app, and jogged slowly back, annoyed at myself for getting lost in the trail every time I go alone.  This trail and I are just not meant to be I guess.
Heavy Bladder

Went around the pond loop again.  It was rainy today so no desire to try the trail at all.  Did one loop around the pond.  My calves are still aching, my daily runs are just not giving the muscles any rest.  Because of that I slowed down significantly during the second half of my mile.  It was still a quality mile I think, but I had to end at loop 1.  I made the mistake of not going to the bathroom before I went out, thinking that it wouldn't matter and it was going to be a short run anyway (I originally planned to run 2 loops).  But you can feel a full bladder more when you are moving about and jiggling your body than when you are sitting.  I constantly had the urge to go to the bathroom and it just wasn't fun.  My calves were also very tight when I stopped so maybe it was a good thing.

Thoughts about streaking after the first 5 days

  • I think I am going to complete this 40 day challenge to set myself up with a good routine about running and build some good miles.  It will also teach me about facing difference running circumstances.
  • That said, I don't think, at least for me, streaking is a good long term idea.  Other people may be able to run everyday, but I think I need more rest between runs.  With my 5 day running streak and all the aches and pains and even injuries I've accumulated it would be hard for me go to on longer runs on weekends.  My body will be too tired to take a good, long, 5-mile run, and I would be forever stuck with the short mile.  
  • Then again, this first 5 days have taught me that squeezing 1 mile of running into my daily life is really not hard at all~

Monday, May 26, 2014

This week on the net (5/19-5/25)

I realize now that these weekly posts aren't really about what actually happened in the past week, but rather stuff I managed to dig up from the internet in that given time period.  And a general dumping ground for stuff irrelevant to an actual blog post, since I don't blog on days I don't exercise.  Maybe these posts now deserve a different, more exciting heading.  Oh well, here they are:
  • List of books on running.  Pdf of an appendix from something called Timeless Running Wisdom. Don't know what it is, could be a book.  I thought I would save the list here in case I will later find it useful.
  • Only You (Marathon special episode).  There is a reality show in China called Only You (非你莫属), which is about seeking jobs.  As far as I know there are at least two similar shows in China on this topic.  A "contestant" would come up, a job seeker, to face a panel of 12 bosses.  They are real bosses in charge of fairly large companies in China, and in a face-to-face interview with the contestant (which in reality lasts about an hour but is then edited into a ~15 min. segment), make a decision whether to hire the job seeker.  I used to be obsessed about this show but my enthusiasm has diminished somewhat.  But I recently learned that they had a special marathon episode, for which they brought a number of high executives who runs or have complete marathons, among them a guy named Tongsheng Tian, who started running when he was 55 and has completed over 35 marathons since he started (he's 61 now).  The episode was aired earlier this month, very appropriate to my current life events.  Anyway, there are many reasons why this show organized a running themed episode, but I was intrigued and watched it.  Wasn't too impressed with the episode, mostly because the four contestants who came up weren't very impressive.  And overall the episode only tangentially related to running, and got annoying by the end (the bosses kept saying to the contestant that he should start running marathons, which is probably the worst way to get someone who doesn't usually find running fun to start).  But I liked the spirit of the episode.  I don't know how big running is in China, or how popular running marathons has been or when the enthusiasm started, but it's an entirely new culture I discovered.  It's not completely separated from the running culture here, in fact a lot of the valuable running-related books are translated English best sellers, Born to Run and Running&Being among them.  
  • Speaking of this Tongsheng Tian, I've only recently learned about him.  But apparently he's a big  inspiration in China (or he has been advertised as such) and is considered one of the pioneers for introducing the people to marathon running as a sport.  He recently published a graphical autobiography on his journey from an out-of-shape, 55-year-old man to the distance runner he is today.  I haven't been able to get a hold of a copy of the book yet, and I'm sure his story is very motivating and inspiring, but the concept of a graphic book (comic book), the cover design, and even the title, seem to me a terrible plagiarism on an already popular book a Japanese female illustrator published on her own marathon running experience.  Just look at the covers and tell me if it's a coincidence:
Tongsheng Tian's new book, illustrated by his daughter (released just last month).

Naoko Takagi's book on her running her first marathon (the Chinese translated edition was released in 2011).

Oh, and guess what, Takagi has "written" several books since then as a series of her marathoning adventure.

Year 2, Chinese translation released in 2012

Year 3, on marathoning and eating at all the places she's run.  Chinese translation released in Nov, 2013.

Her most recent book in this series, on marathoning abroad.  It's so new that the translated edition is not even out yet.  I can't wait to read it~

You tell me what you think.  If you want to have an inspirational book on marathon running, a book by a great Chinese runner on a great running story, at least be original and not be so obnoxiously plagiaristic.  I believe his experience is real, but doing a book this way just makes him less respectable.  I'm sorry, but I truly feel that.

  • A review of the North Face Ultra Trail Shoe.  Not that I'm looking for a pair of trail shoes, but I was reading this post and could only understand about 1/3 of it.  I couldn't understand all the things this guest blogger is talking about with regard of the shoes he's reviewing.  So I will save the link here and go back another day to figure what everything means.
  • Tips for training for a 10K.  Just to have it, should be useful.