About Me

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I'm a 24-year-old student scientist, budget gourmet, novice cyclist, long-distance girlfriend, and avid amateur runner. I always said I couldn't have a blog because I didn't have anything worth blogging about. Turns out, I may have been wrong...

Monday, February 22, 2010


As in, wallowing in a swamp of assignments to grade!

Back to blogging when I can identify my living room under the mountains of paper, promise.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Glasses and Wrinkles and Grey Hairs, Oh My!

Much to my dismay, I have always been the baby.  Throughout grade school, with my birthday in mid-September, I was consistently one of the youngest kids in my grade.  I couldn't get my driver's license until I was almost done with my junior year of high school!  In college, I was just about the last of my friends to turn 21 (super lame).  A year into my first job, over half of the new hires - who got their degrees a year after I did - were still older than I was!  And now, even though I worked for two years in between undergrad and graduate school, I remain the youngest student in my graduate cohort.

Needless to say, I may have developed a little bit of a complex about my age.  I have a secret worry that having been on the planet for a longer period of time gives those around me some kind of developmental advantage... cognitively, socially, physically, who knows?  Sometimes I feel like I just don't get things that other people do - and maybe it's because their more mature neurons have figured out more of life's little intricacies. I often wonder if other "youngsters" feel the same way... Well, do you??

OK, fine, it's all in my head.  Regardless, I have never, ever thought of myself as being "old enough," but always instead "too young." 

So, how is it possible that, at 24 years of age, a relative infant, I keep showing physical signs of aging?!?!?  

When I was 20, with a life history of perfect vision, I started needing glasses to see presentations in class.  Myopia!  Unbelievable and unfortunate.  Now, after exponentially increasing time spent in front of computers, I find myself needing those very glasses to drive, proctor tests, even dine with friends at oblong tables.  Do I look academic enough yet?


Shortly thereafter, I started to notice grooves on my forehead and around my mouth... Grooves, indeed.  These were wrinkles!  Clearly I must smile and/or raise my eyebrows too much.  So, I started to use nighttime face cream - I was going to moisturize those bastards into submission!  

I'm not sure the plan worked, but I really love using night cream - it makes my skin feel super nice in the morning!

Most recently, I've decided to end a 12-year era of blond highlights and grow out my natural hair color (dark dirty blond, perhaps, but yet to be seen).  I resolutely, unwaveringly rejected all suggestions of doing an all-over darker dye to avoid horrible roots on the argument that I don't want to put any more chemicals on my head.  Unwavering, that is, until I noticed gray hair mixed in with my natural darker roots!!!

 Can you see them?  Trust me, they are there in full force.  Gross.

WTH?!?!  NOOOOOO!!!  It's not just one or two, there is an entire cadre of these suckers staked out right where I like to part my 'do... Grrrrrr.  My mother warned me that she found her first gray at 24... I just never thought it would happen to me!  Still haven't decided it I will go for an all-over color to camouflage them... but I understand it's a slippery slope - once you start covering grays, it's very difficult to stop.  I guess we'll have to wait and see just how gray I am when my natural color has completely grown in...!!!  Eeek!

I've also picked up some grandma-esque behaviors, such as mild hoarding.  I hoard grocery bags...

You never know when you might need a paper or plastic bag!

...and (no surprise here) old running shoes.

I took my very first outdoor training run in the grey pair (bottom), ran my very first race, a 10k, in the white and orange pair (middle), and ran my first two half-marathons in the blue and white pair (top)!  These worn-out duds hold some very special memories... but will I ever wear them again?  Probably not.

In a tiny apartment with insufficient storage space, extraneous junk like this stuff causes a lot of clutter!  But, aside from these two things, I'm pretty good about saying goodbye and good riddance to unnecessary items.

So, I think I have to get used to it.  I am aging.  On most cognitive measures, I've already passed my prime.  Physically, I'm experiencing some of the drawbacks I will probably struggle with for most of my life.  As my Dad so poetically put it on a phone call earlier today, "You're not as young as you used to be." Alas and alack!

In a sense, not being quite so young is kind of exciting...!  I don't know that I like the idea of "growing old," but I do very much enjoy the notion of reaching an age that might command respect (whatever that may be).  Maybe, with a few grays on the ol' noggin, I won't feel so much at an age disadvantage.

And, here's a fun paradox for you (if you're into that type of thing): At the same time that I'm becoming more aware of my body's aging, I am in the best physical shape of my life!  Youth, schmouth, I wear glasses and clip-in bike shoes!  I have wrinkles and killer core strength!   I have gray hair and a 1:51 half marathon PR!  Take that, aging!!

More importantly, at this stage in my admittedly short existence, I have a new-found commitment to lifelong health and fitness.  I am always amazed and inspired by older athletes - especially those who outrace me!  I still want to be an athlete at 34, 54, and, hopefully, 74.  I still want to be crossing finish lines - either in real races or just at my own driveway - when all I have are grey hairs!  Exercise will always be part of my life.  I will always be cognizant of nutrition.  I will always take care of my body because, in the long run (no pun intended), I am giving myself more time (and more quality time) with the people I love.

Alright, glasses.  Fine, wrinkles.  OK, grays.  Take your best shot - I'll be ready for you, sneakers laced.

Today's question:  Which event in the Winter Olympics is your favorite and why?

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Two Beautiful Love Affairs

For those who have been curious about what my incredible Valentine's Day present from my incredible Other Half is, I will give you three guesses...  Ready?  Go!

Any ideas?  No?

 How about now?  Getting warmer...


He gave me himself!!!  A "surprise" visit for Valentine's weekend!!! 

He booked the airplane tickets secretly months ago, but finally couldn't hold it in anymore and told me at the beginning of the month that he was flying across the country to visit me.  Such a romantic guy... I still can't believe we were able to spend Valentine's Day together!  The weekend was truly dreamlike.

My V-Day gift to him was a special "surprise" brunch (I told him about it beforehand, too... we are both terrible secret-keepers).  On Saturday morning, I whipped up a number of rather healthy masterpieces from my culinary imagination:

Lobster, Crab, and Asparagus Crustless Quiche
  • 1 lobster tail, diced
  • 1/2 cup crab claw meat, cooked and shredded (mine came canned in a cool tub from the seafood dep't)
  • 6 asparagus spears, cut into 1" pieces, points reserved
  • 1.5 cups liquid egg whites
  • 1 tbsp flour
  • 1/4 cup skim milk
  • dash nutmeg
  • dash each salt and ground black pepper
  • 2 tbsp grated parmesan
In a cooking spray-coated pie dish, layer lobster, crab, and chopped asparagus evenly.  Whisk together all other ingredients except asparagus points and cheese, pour over seafood into dish (should come 1/3 inch below dish rim).  Arrange asparagus points into fan, sprinkle with cheese.  Bake @ 375 for 25 minutes or until firm.  [Makes ~6 servings!!!]
Brie-Stuffed French Toast
(Inspired by my hometown's Carriage House Cafe's signature dish)
  • 3/4 cup liquid egg whites
  • 1 tbsp skim milk
  • 1 capfull vanilla extract
  • 2 tsp honey
  • generous sprinkle cinnamon
  • sprinkle nutmeg
  • 6 slices whole grain bread (I used Honey Wheat Berry)
  • 3 1/4" wide, 6" long slices light brie, halved
  • Fresh strawbs, sliced
  • 1/2 cup 100% pure maple syrup
Whisk together first 6 ingredients while heating a large skillet.  Thoroughly dip bread slices in egg mixture and lay on sprayed skillet for 1 minute until lightly browned on bottom.  Flip 3 of the slices, top each flipped slice with two brie slice halves, cover with non-flipped slices, cooked side down (yes, this is like grilled cheese).  Cook ~3 minutes until browned and cooked through on bottom, then flip entire sandwich, cooking another 3 mins.  Serve topped with fresh strawbs and warm maple syrup on the side.  [Makes 3 servings - or 2 servings if I eat one and my Other Half eats 2 :-P]
Asti Mimosas
  • 1 small bottle Asti Spumani (it only comes in small bottles, enough for 2 glasses of the sparking wine)
  • 2 cups fresh OJ
Divide both ingredients evenly into 2 glasses, mix, drink! [Makes 2 servings]
After special brunch, we went on a looooooong walk with a fun stop on the way!

We decided to partake of a complimentary (that means free!) Valentine's Weekend wine tasting event at the local winery, which was a 2-mile walk away.  The winery provided live music.  These guys were really jamming!

Also, there were ample snacks!  I had a turkey and cheddar on a croissant with two of these grilled veggie skewers.

And, of course, chocolate-covered strawberries.  Very sensual, hehehe...

If I remember correctly, the wine tasting went something like...





And then two barrel tastings... red blends, they both were.  Mediocre wines, but excellent event overall!  And perfect for the (dare I say) poor student's budget!  We were so glad we decided to check it out.

After the tasting, we took the long route home, another three mile walk, totaling our distance to 5 miles.  Whew, after that walk, we definitely needed to refuel with a great dinner! :-P

So, that night, my very sweet Other Half brought me on a romantic date to "our" restaurant - the first restaurant we visited together when I moved to California, which remains, IMHO, the best restaurant in town.  [The camera stayed in its pouch during this meal - I chose to avoid such distraction while enjoying our limited time together.]  Suffice to say, it was delicious!!!  I just finished the leftovers... so, delicious times two!

This afternoon, he loaded his bags into my trunk and I delivered him to the airport for his return flight.

I am suddenly a very lonely little blogger...

... :'(

Well, before I get too wimpery, I should probably relay what ensued earlier this week, before my Weekend o' Love.

The night of last Sunday's half-marathon, I had a pizza and couch party (guest list included me, myself, and a bowl of frozen yogurt).

 Small veggie deluxe pizza delivered right to my door.  Note the blanket underneath...

 Nonfat tart frozen yogurt with frozen strawberries and Kashi GoLean Crunch.

For lunches this week, I threw together roasted chicken breasts, zucchini, and red peppers with some cumin on top.  Very fresh, very light.  One whole medium-sized zucchini went into every portion!

Dinners were awwwwwesome!  Like lunches, they were lean and involved lots of veggies.  I felt I needed a bit of a detox after last week's race-related eating (e.g. couch pizza).  I made curry fish on baked sweet potatoes with lightly fried eggplant and steamed artichokes on the side!

While cooking, I appreciated the aesthetic value of my side dishes, the eggplant and artichokes.  These pictures are so artistic, aren't they?  Oh yeah, gorgeous.

The single eggplant was sliced into 3/4 inch rounds and lightly browned on each side in some EVOO.

Four artichokes were trimmed, cleaned, and topped with some lemon juice, then steamed for ~25 minutes until soft before being individually wrapped.

 Curry Fish
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 lb cod filets (frozen or fresh, mine were frozen and thawed)
  • 1 jar Indian curry simmer sauce (from Trader Joe's, of course)
  • 5 roma tomatoes, large diced
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • 4 baked sweet potatoes (I clean mine and microwave them in a moist paper towel for 5 minutes)

In hot oil, brown fish on both sides.  Add sauce, bring to simmer.  Add peas, return to simmer.  Cover, reduce heat, cook ~5 mins.  Add tomatoes, cook uncovered, stirring, for 3-5 minutes.  Spoon over opened baked sweet potatoes.  Enjoy!!!  [Makes 4 servings]
This dinner was so easy and so so good!  It might be my favorite home-cooked meal since I came to CA!  I will definitely be making it again. 


 For other snacks/desserts, I had Greek yogurt and raspberry sorbet (separately, not mixed together, that would be gross).


In my most recent mid-week post, I announced that I will be riding 100 miles on my bicycle, known as a century ride, at the end of April!  In the week since my half-marathon, I've been taking a break from running (which hurts my heart but heals my knee - which is feeling great now, by the way, thanks for asking), while preparing, both physically and mentally, to begin my ambitious century training plan next week.

On Tuesday, I followed a cyclist's core strength routine as detailed in a recent issue of Bicycling magazine.  The workout was three sets of:
  • Side planks, 1 minute each side
  • Elbow front planks, 1 minute
  • Supine bridge (a.k.a. butt raises), 20 reps
  • Reverse crunch, 20 reps
  • Prone cobra (a.k.a. Supermans), 15 reps
By the second set, my core was shaking!  And, the next day, I could definitely tell I had done some work, especially in the ribcage region.  This routine will be incorporated into my century training on "strength" day.

When I checked the mail on Wednesday, I found a very exciting package!

My Road ID, a Christmas gift from my Boyfriend's sister Emily, had finally arrived!!  The Road ID contains important personal information that could save an endurance athlete's life if he or she requires emergency medical attention.  Mine displays my name, DOB, location, drug allergies, blood type, and emergency contact numbers.  Also, it says my mantra and it's purple :)

Thank you, Emily, I love it!!!  I promise to wear it when I run and ride my bike - safety first!  Such a thoughtful gift!!

Thursday was a big day!  I woke up extra early and, after a light breakfast of Greek yogurt and Kashi GoLean Crunch, strapped on a very silly-looking outfit.

Something about this look makes me think of horseback riding...  Also, you probably can't tell, but, over leggings, I'm sporting bike shorts with a built-in "chamois."  If you just Googled "chamois," to allay your confusion, no, I am not wearing a goat, nor any other kind of horned or hooved animal.  I am in fact wearing a protective butt pad!  Awkward at first, but then surprisingly comfortable, and definitely appreciated on longer rides!

Then, I wheeled my bike outside, straddled it, and snapped my right shoe cleat into the corresponding pedal.  OK, no problem, I told myself, you can do this - just remember: clip-in is forward and down, clip-out is a Dorothy-style ankle turn (there's no place like home).  Holding my breath, I pushed off, took a one-legged pedal stroke, and, with momentum helping me balance, somehow managed to press my left foot down on the left pedal clip and - *clunk!* - I was officially riding clipped-in

First of all, before, with just platform pedals, I had no idea what I was missing!  Rather than just pushing down on every pedal stroke, clipped-in, I could push, pull, lift, and generally crank those pedals for the entire rotation!  Plus, with my foot stuck to the pedal, I didn't have to waste any power keeping my foot in place.  Riding was just so amazingly more efficient!  I kept an eye on my new bike computer and flew through the streets and bike paths around my neighborhood.
  • Distance: 10.07 mi
  • Time: 35:10
  • Average Speed: 17.0 mph
  • Max Speed: 26.5 mph (downhill)
  • Falls: 0!
And let me tell you.  Words cannot express the happiness.  The elation.  The unbridled joy that flowed through me as I soared forward.  I was literally and figuratively connected to my bike.  We were one machine - the bike as the streamlined frame and me as the engine.  Basically, it was love at first ride

So, Happy Valentine's Day, Brian.  I love you more than you can imagine, and I believe unequivocally that the challenges we face now will only make us stronger in our future. 

And, Happy Valentine's Day, Bike.  I look forward to spending much more quality time getting to know you on a deeper level very soon.

Well kids, century training start tomorrow - follow my training log here.  I have plans to bike with my avid cyclist research advisor all the way to the brain imaging center... 17 miles away!  Luckily, there is a shuttle I can return on at the end of the day (35 miles per day miiiight be overdoing it at this juncture).  The ride does not exactly conform to the mileage specified for Monday on the plan, but I may be adjusting the plan if I start doing this commute two days per week.

My advisor, on the other hand, commutes by bike five days per week, so I just hope I can keep up!  My goal is to maintain a 16.5 mph average split.  We'll have to do some city riding once we get close to the medical campus... so, I'm a little nervous about that, too.  Without a doubt, I'll be wearing my helmet (always always!), my butt pad chamois shorts, and my new Road ID.

Today's question:  On a completely unrelated note, what is your favorite fruit?  Please include an argument either for your fruit of choice or against other fruits :)

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Race Report: 2010 Davis Stampede Half-Marathon

Well, I am now a veteran of three half-marathons... how wild!  This last one was quite the mixed bag.  Here's a recap of this past Sunday's race, the Davis Stampede.

The morning began dark and early at 5:30am.  I rolled out of bed and tucked into some race fuel: a big bowl of 7-grain cereal, one banana, one tbsp organic chunky PB, one tbsp honey, and a sprinkle of cinnamon.

While I ate, I thought about my race plan:
  1. Start out easy, don't burn out too early!
  2. Aim for a 9:00/mi average split.
  3. Pick up my tempo at mile 10.
  4. Sprint the last half mile.
  5. Finish the race in 2 hours or less!
Given how I'd felt on my most recent training runs, I was a bit nervous my ability to stick to this plan, but I also considered that there's nothing wrong with trying my best - I might just surprise myself!

After breakfast, I showered (to help me wake up) and dressed in the gear I had laid out the night before.

Don't be alarmed by the positioning of the sports bra - it needed to dry overnight.

Packing some Gatorade, my iPod, a PowerBar, and flip flops, I headed out the door to pick up my race buddies, Emily, Renata, and Jin!  After trolling for parking, we made our way to the starting grounds and checked our sweats.

A few minutes before the gun, bubbling over with nervous energy, we lined up at the start.

 The "frontrunners," quite literally, waiting for the gun, hands on watch buttons.  We all started at a much more reasonable place in line.

All of a sudden, out of nowhere, we saw Mark and Christine!  Mark proceeded to bike around the course, appearing at random intervals to act as our own personal cheering squad and photographer.  This act is about the most amazing thing a spectator/fan/friend can do during a race - from all four of us, thank you so much, Mark!  [All race pictures below came from his camera.]

  Renata and I with Christine at the start.
 Emily and Jin with Mark and Christine.

 Then, we were off! 

Jin and Emily ran together for most of the race, and Renata and I stayed together for the first nine miles.  

My race buddy and I started out at a pretty good pace, dodging around other runners for the first several hundred yards.  The course for the first two miles was straight, flat, and wide, giving us space to settle into a rhythm.  

At mile 2, we were keeping exactly a 9 minute split (meaning that mile 2 must have been faster than mile 1, since we were shuffling somewhat slowly at the start).  Yay, we were keeping our goal pace!  Renata knew about a secret toilet at mile 2.5, which I took advantage of, having consumed probably too much Gatorade at the start.  Renata graciously jogged in circles in the meantime.

At mile 4, Mark biked by for a photo op!  We look way too happy to be running, don't we? :-P

Well, that happiness lasted a few more miles.  As we crossed an overpass at mile 6, my knee pain returned with a vengeance, but I pushed onward.  And then, around the part of the course that passed by my apartment complex, I started to worry about needing a pit stop again.  By mile 8, I was really not feeling well.

[Reader Advisory: The following paragraph suffers from an acute case of TMI - read at your own risk.]  I've experienced digestion issues for pretty much my entire running "career," if you will.  They're pretty common in distance runners, but doctors don't know exactly why these problems occur.  Either way, as I approached mile 9, I knew that I needed to find a toilet, and fast.  Off in the distance, in a ballpark next to the race course, like a beacon in the wilderness, I saw a public restroom!  Unfortunately, I had to travel an extra 1/10 of a mile off of the course in order to reach the facilities, and then it took me a little while to feel up to running again.  

Long story short, this pit stop added around 4 minutes to my race time!  Renata had continued on by herself, so I was on my own now for four more miles.  Even though I had reached mile 9 at a strong slightly-sub-9:00/mi split, I was no longer optimistic about finishing the race in my goal time of two hours.

As I settled back into my rhythm, I told myself, "If you want to have even a chance of finishing in your goal time, you need to to bust it out for the last four miles of this race!  You should have nothing left at the finish line!!  As Nike so succinctly puts it, JUST DO IT!!!"  

So, I put pedal to the metal.

I was relieved that the last three miles of the course were total home turf - part of my usual running route and commuter bike path.  Thusly, I had a really good sense of how far I had to go - and I knew I could make it!   I rounded mile 12.5, a sweaty, gasping mess, and there were Mark and Shannon, who had come to cheer us on, staked out with camera ready!

When the finish line was in sight, I opened all the stops and willed my legs to sprint down the chute!

As I crossed the finish, my watch, which I had paused during pit stop #2, said 1:56:00

The clock, on the other hand, which measures time from the starting gun, said 2:00:48 - I could only hope that my official chip time was at least 48 seconds off of gun time...

Meanwhile, I found Renata, who had finished about four minutes ahead of me, and watched Emily and Jin cross the finish line!  

I am so proud of all three of my race buddies for completing this race like strong, awesome runners!! 

 Student psychologists/half-marathoners :)  Not pictured, the lovely Miss Renata.

After grabbing some loot and cooling down around the starting grounds, we all met up with some more friends at the Black Bear Diner [the third mention of that restaurant in this blog - it's sheer coincidence, as those are three of about five times I have ever even been in there!] for a post-race feast!

Mark, Shannon, Darlene, Maria, Emily, Jin, and Renata!

The feast!!!

I had a regular-sized Volcano, complete with three 7-grain almond granola pancakes, two sausage links, two bacon strips, and topped with two eggs over-easy!  And maple syrup, of course :)

Hungry runners chow down.  Mark, too.

Later that afternoon, the official results were up.  My gun time difference was actually 47.8 seconds, bringing my official finish time to 2:00:00.2!!!  That's point-oh-two seconds above my goal time!  Unbelievable. 

For the past few days, I've been deliberating on how to feel about this race. 

On the one hand, a 2-hr finish time was technically my goal, but, on the other hand, I was really hoping to come in below that goal.  

Slowly, I've arrived at the following conclusions

In my own mind/heart/whatever, I feel that I completed the distance in 1:56 - I actually ran those 13.1 miles at a very commendable 8:51/mi average split.  Yay, go me!  

However, there is no denying that, at mile 9, I took a 4-minute "break" of sorts.  This fact cannot be ignored.  But, I am now of the mindset that, given my very necessary pit stop, as well as my injury, it is fantastic that I was able to clock in at 2 hours!  

Lastly, no matter what my time was, no matter what happened along the way, I completed my third half-marathon.  I am a three-timer!  And, before the year is out, I hope to run my fourth and fifth half-marathons!

But those details are yet to come.

In the meantime, I have a very exciting race announcement...

Although I am a total novice, I recently posted about my commitment to becoming more involved with the sport of cycling, both to round out my fitness and assuage my overuse injury.  I just equipped my bike with fancy clip-in pedals!  And, what better way is there to build and grow as a cyclist than to train for a special bike ride??

So, on April 25, 2010, I will complete the Amgen Tour of California Stage 2 Breakaway Century Ride!  

A century is a 100-mile bike race, a major accomplishment for any cyclist - one might say it's the "marathon of cycling."  

This race is in the tradition of Gran Fondo, Italian for "Great Endurance," meaning that, while parts of the course will be timed, it is generally a friendly, more casual ride.  

Still, 100 miles in one day is no small feat!  This will probably be the most challenging athletic event of my life thus far, and I only have 10 weeks to train for it!

I will be riding to raise money for Breakaway from Cancer, and details about how you can contribute to helping me reach my fundraising goal will follow soon.

My official century training plan starts next week - you can check out my plan here, and I will update it as the weeks until the race tick down.

But until then, baby steps!  Tomorrow morning, I will attempt my first clipped-in ride... So, wish me luck! 

Also tomorrow, I will receive my Valentine's Day gift from my truly wonderful Boyfriend [still working on a better pseudonym... perhaps "S.O." for "Significant Other"?  I'll take suggestions]... I already know what it is, and it is positively the best, most perfect gift I could imagine! :-D!!!!

Today's Question: Have you ever raced for charity?  What was it like, and how was it different from non-philanthropic races?  Did you find that fundraising made the challenge of the race even more meaningful?