I talk to God on the road. And He talks back.

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Back into Fighting Shape

Hey friends,

Things have been slow on the blogging front lately, no thanks in part to my catching a massive cold in Iceland that doesn’t want to go away. I thought I had recovered last week and managed to get in a few good workouts, only to be walloped again this week! Hopefully, the combo of zinc, sleep and chicken matzo ball soup will knock it out for good.


I wanted to talk a little bit about what’s been going on the fitness front around here lately. I’ve been pretty inconsistent with my running and working out in general since well…probably my May marathon? Some of that was due to injury, some due to getting busy with schoolwork and travel, and some gets chalked up to pure laziness :) And I think that’s okay – we go through cycles in life, and this summer/ fall was about everything except working out for me. Resting felt good, and I loved being able to sleep in on the weekends and not worry about wrecking my schedule. I loved spending more time with Mike, and began to wonder whether I wanted to train for another marathon, when all that time and effort spent training felt a little selfish.

But all that rest meant that I had to cancel fall races, and when I finally showed up to a race – the Rock ‘n’ Stroll 10K – a few weeks ago, I had my first DNF (did not finish). I felt winded by mile 3, and did not have the perseverance to keep pushing through, so I dropped out and walked back. Being at the race though reminded me why I loved running so much – it teaches me that I can push through discomfort and pain to achieve a goal (when I’ve trained properly, that is). It teaches me the importance of consistency in training. It teaches me that sacrifice (waking up early, going out in the cold/ hot/ humid/ windy weather when that’s the last thing I want to do, getting off the couch) pays off.

So I’m resuming a regular workout schedule to ease back into running regularly; it looks like this:

Mon: easy run (3-4 miles)

Tue: intense cross-training (circuit training or Insanity)

Wed: easy cross-training (Zumba – I’m obsessed!)

Thr: easy run (3-4 miles) and yoga

Fri: rest

Sat: long-ish run (start building from 6 miles)

Sun: intense cross-training (circuit or Insanity)

I’m only running 3 days a week to start so that I can focus on getting strong through intense cross-training.  I find that challenging myself with a variety of exercises (circuit style) helps me get into shape faster than just running.  After a couple of weeks, I’ll replace Tuesday’s CT with an interval run, and then eventually swap out Sunday’s CT with another easy run for a total of 5 run days. The goal is to be running ~30 miles a week, 5 days a week by the end of December in preparation for another marathon season!

I probably won’t be racing till next year (except for the 5K I’m doing with Sister J in two weeks!!), and I’m totally okay with that. For now, I’m going to enjoy my runs, push myself hard in cross-training, and have fun getting back into fighting shape again.


21 Tips for an Iceland Trip

Hi friends! Congrats to everyone who ran the Marine Corps Marathon yesterday – we had friends visiting so we didn’t get a chance to spectate, but we commented while walking around that the weather was great for race day (aside from a pretty strong wind). Hope the race went well for all who ran.

I’ve been off the grid for a bit – we got back from Iceland one week ago, and then last week was pretty busy.  We had an absolutely fantastic time, and with Iceland continuing to grow as a popular vacation destination, I thought I’d post a list of some of the best tips we got and came up with after our trip!

21 Tips for Your Iceland Vacation

1. Rent a car! 
If you’re in Iceland for more than a couple of days, I highly recommend renting a car and getting out of Reykjavik. Reykjavik is a cool city, but you really don’t need more than a day or two to explore because it’s pretty small. There are incredible sights to see all along the coast and interior of Iceland, and the roads are very easy to navigate (there aren’t that many!).

2. If you rent a car, consider adding on a GPS
While you can definitely navigate the major roads using a map, several of the hotels we stayed at in the countryside didn’t have precise street addresses, so it was helpful to be able navigate via GPS coordinates. I wasn’t sure we needed the GPS before the trip, but I’m glad we had it for peace of mind.
3. Buy gas cards before you get too far outside of Reykjavik
Gas stations outside of big cities may not all take credit cards, so we followed the advice we saw online to buy pre-paid gas cards as soon as we could. Worked out great!
4.Consider renting 4 X 4 in the wintertime
While we didn’t have any trouble with the roads in October, we noticed that part of the main road (Ring Road) in the eastern part of the country was not paved, and could have been treacherous to drive in snowy/ very icy conditions.
5. Bring an audiobook/ music for long car rides
We did the Ring Road in about 4 driving days, which meant we were on the road for about 4 hours a day. The scenery was beautiful, but having an interesting audiobook really helped the drive go by faster!

6. Pack any medication you think you’ll need
We always travel with a small bag of medication (ibuprofen, motion sickness pills, etc), but when I caught a head cold in Iceland, I found myself wishing that I had brought daytime/ nighttime cold medicine as well. Medication is sold only in pharmacies and is very expensive – I spent about $35 on a nasal spray and sore throat lozenges, and would have surely spent more had we not packed ibuprofen and a nighttime sleep aid. They also didn’t have “combination” medication to treat multiple symptoms at once (like a catch-all cold medicine).

7. Pack all toiletries you think you’ll need
We made the mistake of forgetting face wash, and found that everything costs at least twice as much here, as in the Neutrogena face wash we picked up for $20. We also found that most of the guesthouses we stayed in outside of Reykjavik did not provide shampoo/ conditioner/ soap (luckily we took the bottles we didn’t use from our first hotel in Reyk).

8. Bring earplugs.
Some of the guesthouses we stayed in had fairly thin walls, and with guests sometimes arriving late in the evening, we made good use of these!

9. Pack warm hiking socks – several pairs
I bought a bunch of warm Smartwool and Icebreaker hiking socks from REI outlet for our trip, and with all the hiking we did, we were glad to have dry and comfortable socks each day.

10. Bring your running shoes!
This one’s an obvious one, right ;) Sadly, I only got to run one day because I caught a cold pretty early on in the trip – my biggest regret is that I couldn’t run more while I was there!

11. Pack minimal clothing
We didn’t pack that much, but I found that I still brought stuff that I didn’t end up wearing because I wore pretty much the same thing every day.  I lived in a pair of leggings layered with warm, waterproof hiking pants, and rotated between two warm running tops (Nike Hyperwarm is the best!) layered with a fleece jacket and a waterproof storm jacket on top. No need for nice clothes when you’re hiking every day.

What I wore everyday – minus the ice pick.

12. Don’t bother with getting cash
Credit cards are happily accepted everywhere – we used them to pay for everything! The only time we needed cash was to pay for lodging one night (the card reader at the guesthouse was broken), but it was really easy to find an ATM in town.

13. Do drink the tap water!
No need to buy bottled water here – tap water in Iceland is as pure and tasty as it gets, often coming from a nearby glacial stream or river.

Drinking straight from Dettifoss – the largest waterfall in Europe

14. Don’t learn Icelandic (unless you want to)
Everyone we encountered spoke English well, so language was definitely no barrier.

15. Be flexible in your schedule/ itinerary
While it’s great to plan what you’re doing each day, add in flex time to account for all the sightseeing stops on the road, as well as potential impact of bad weather. Because you’re going to need stop when you see this:
DSC03325 And this:
3_616. (For fellow lactose intolerant friends)Pack lactaid!
Iceland is known for their tasty dairy products – milk and butter tasted so much better here. Not to mention you might get the chance to drink milk straight from a cow!DSC03586
17. Eat breakfast
While I’m a strong proponent of eating breakfast in general, food is pretty expensive in Iceland and breakfast is often included with the rate in guesthouses/ hotels, so it’s a good idea to fuel up for free before hitting the road.
18. To save $$ on food, consider buying groceries and cooking
Several of the guesthouses we stayed in were equipped with full kitchens, so we agreed that if we had stayed anywhere longer than a night or two, it would have been great to cook dinner together!
19. Eat an Icelandic hot dog!
I’ll write more on what we ate later (more comprehensive trip recap to come), but the Icelandic hot dog is as ubiquitous as it is delicious, and Icelanders eat them all the time.
20. Pack food and snacks
Mike had a coworker that visited Iceland shortly before we did, and she advised that we pack snacks and instant food to save money while on the road. So glad we listened to her! We brought instant ramen cups, hot chocolate, granola bars, and beef jerky to stay fueled on the road. We saved a lot of money by eating breakfast in the hotel, eating instant food for lunch while hiking, and eating out only for dinner.
21. Go to Iceland in the off-season
We made the choice to take our trip in the low season (not summertime), and I’m so glad we did – accommodations/ flights were much cheaper, tourists were fewer, and locals were relaxed and happy to chat with fewer people around (although maybe they’re just always so nice).

And there you have it! More posts to come in the following weeks recapping our trip – where we stayed, what we ate, and what we saw. Iceland has been at the top of my wish list for a long time, and I’m looking forward to sharing our experiences to inspire your travels!

Do you like vacationing in warm locations or cold locations?  Definitely cold! I have tons more energy in the cold weather, whereas hot weather completely saps me =\

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How to Ease into Cooking Korean Cuisine

So You Want to Cook Korean Food…

I’ve gotten a few comments about people looking to cook Korean food at home, but aren’t sure how to start/ what ingredients they need to have on hand. While there are a few Korean-specific ingredients you’ll need, once you add them to your pantry, you can cook a whole bunch of dishes with ingredients you can find at any supermarket (vegetables, meat, etc).

Some Pantry Essentials:

korean ingredients

- soy sauce – not all soy sauces are alike, you need a Japanese or Korean brand for Korean cooking. We like Kikkoman!
sesame oil
red pepper flakes (can purchase on Amazon)
Korean red pepper paste (can purchase on Amazon)
Korean soybean paste (can purchase on Amazon)
The first two ingredients can probably be found at most supermarkets in the Asian/ international section, and you can order the last three ingredients online or find them at your local Korean market.

Start Cooking!
Once you have your ingredients, here are a few easy meals you can put together:

Rice with side dishes (“banchan”) – Koreans frequently eat rice with various side dishes, which you can make during the weekend and eat throughout the week. There are hundreds of recipes for side dishes, ranging from the very simple to the more complicated to prepare.  Here are some basic ones to get you started:
Steamed Tofu with Soy Sauce

Spicy Cucumber Pickles

Breaded Cod Filets

Spinach Side Dish

Pan-fried Pork Cutlets

Soups and stews – These one pot meals are filling and easy to pull together! Stews are often no more complicated than boiling bones/ meat (the cheapest cuts) to create the soup base, and then adding various vegetables, protein, and maybe noodles.
Savory Curry and Rice

Doenjang Jjigae (translated: “bean paste stew” – better than it sounds, trust me!)

Bean Sprout Soup – a light soup, serve with rice and a few side dishes

Korean Cooking Blogs
And lastly, I just wanted to note that despite the fact that my mom cooks great Korean food, I learned little from her kitchen growing up, alas – but luckily there are several fantastic Korean cooking blogs out there! Here are some of my favorites:

Maangchi – the ultimate resource!
Korean Bapsang
Aeri’s Kitchen
Kimchimari – another WordPress blogger!

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Recent Eats: Korean Food!

AM Run

I woke up a little earlier than usual this morning, determined to start getting in some AM workouts again – running in the morning gives me so much energy throughout the day, plus I don’t face the temptation of skipping a workout when I get home. I got on the treadmill to do a 5 X 800 meter speed workout, only to feel my legs turning to lead in the first 800 – so I quickly decided to switch to 400 meters instead and walk in between each interval. It wasn’t exactly what I’d planned, but I figured it was better to modify my workout then to skip it entirely! I think I’ll give the 800s another go next week outside and see if I do any better.

For today’s post, It occurred to me the other day that I haven’t posted a “Recent Eats” or other meal round-up in a while. To be honest, Mike and I have been subsisting on a lot of frozen leftovers and smoothies because we’re both taking classes now. But I went on a Korean food cooking binge this summer, and here’s what we made!

Recent Eats: Korean Style

For lunch, I ate several variations of noodles mixed with veggies and spicy sauce, with a hard-boiled egg added for protein. This was perfect for the summer with very little cooking required!
DSC03100Mandolins are the best for quickly julienning lots of veggies.DSC02840More noodles for dinner: This was a cold noodle soup (naengmyun) assembled from a package containing the noodles and soup base. Added an hb egg, julienned cucumbers, and thinly sliced watermelon for a really refreshing meal.
DSC03095Koreans often eat rice with several side dishes as a meal (you can prepare a lot of each side dish in advance, and eat over a couple of days).  I had some time one weekend, so I made spicy pickled cucumbers, sweet black beans, and egg-battered sausage.
DSC02819 DSC02820 DSC02821 I often supplement homemade side dishes with store-bought side dishes for even greater variety!DSC02822Another night, for a super-easy dinner, we mixed together chopped crab meat, avocado, and warm rice, topped with soy sauce, sriracha and red pepper flakes for some umami and spice!
DSC03091And just to round out the meals, a breakfast pic: yogurt bowls with jam and granola reigned supreme this summer! I don’t typically eat Korean food for breakfast :)
Check back tomorrow for a post on how to ease into Korean cooking!

What did you eat for breakfast today?


Weekend Pics (Mike’s Bday) + Workout Log

Mike’s Birthday Weekend

Mike’s birthday weekend was devoted to his favorite activity: eating! We tried some new places – BRABO and PX in Alexandria – and went back to an old favorite -Sushi Jin in Burke.

Our celebrations started Friday night after work! I came home early to get in a quick run and yoga class before getting dressed up to go to Old Town. Our first stop: BRABO, on the recommendation of a coworker. Loved the cozy feel of this restaurant, with low ceilings, big leather chairs, and quiet enough (at 6 pm) for conversation.
DSC03131 While BRABO had lots of delicious sounding options on their a la carte menu, we went with their tasting menu, which seemed like a good deal.DSC03132 DSC03136 DSC03138 DSC03140 DSC03143 Dessert – my favorite course.DSC03144Everything was delicious, if not exactly what I would have ordered (I’m not a big seafood fan, and venison was definitely an adventurous choice for me). I felt that the courses could have been a lot bigger, but that’s the downside of the tasting menu.

Next stop: PX, a popular speakeasy in Old Town. PX is known for excellent cocktails and for their glamorous/ mysterious ambiance – there’s no sign for the bar on the street (you knock at the door under the blue light), and you must come dressed up.

The blue light!
DSC03146 DSC03147The atmosphere inside was indeed swanky and intimate, complete with candles at each table and mirrored walls. They had a very interesting cocktail menu, and we each ordered two – my favorite was the Cocktail Inspired by Pok Pok, which had fish sauce and chilis among its ingredients.
DSC03148 It was a fun and relaxing way to end the evening!
DSC03150On Saturday, we attempted to go to an early morning SoulCycle class, only to discover that most of the bridges going into DC had been marked off for an event (later found out it was the Tour de Cure). Thankfully, SoulCycle let us reschedule for another time – thanks guys!

We came home and went to the gym instead (spin for Mike, treadmill for me), and spent the rest of the day re-arranging our living room and doing some fall cleaning. Our previous living room arrangement felt awkward to me, but moving the couch and a few bookcases around made all the difference. I accidentally skipped lunch and was more than ready for dinner at Sushi Jin.
DSC03168 DSC03169 DSC03170 Definitely our favorite sushi restaurant!

Training Log (Sept 22-28)

After taking the first part of the week off from working out because I was sick, I managed to get in all my runs by running Thurs-Sun! Not ideal, but I was happy to get my mileage in.

Thursday- 4 easy miles on the treadmill (10:07 pace)
I did NOT want to workout on Thursday, but I knew that the more days I took off, the harder it would be to get back into it – so I convinced myself to lace up and get on the treadmill, and whaddayaknow – it felt great!!
Friday - 2.25 easy miles on the T/M (11:06 pace) and 30 min yoga
My stomach started bothering me on this run, so I cut my 3 miles short after doing a run/ walk for most of the workout. I tried going to yoga afterwards, but felt so weak that I left halfway through. Still happy I got my sweat on before our night out on the town!
Saturday - 4 miles on the T/M (2.5 @ 9:00 tempo speed)
I was nervous for this run as I always am for tempos, but after a mile warmup, the 2.5 tempo miles went by pretty quickly (done at 6.6 on treadmill, 1.0 incline). I’d like to move my tempo runs outside again – I find it a lot easier to maintain tempo speed when I can vary my speed a little from time to time, which comes less naturally on the treadmill.
Sunday - 6 miles on the T/M (9:40 pace)
I didn’t want to do my “long run” on the treadmill, but I puttered around in the morning and didn’t go for my run till the late afternoon (by which time it was 80 degrees), so treadmill it was. I survived by playing with the speed and incline every mile or so, and finished feeling strong.
My goal for this week is to space out my runs a little more and get some more cross-training in – hopefully yoga, Zumba, and some weights!


A (Late) Weekend Recap – A Wedding!

Man, I’m down for the count this week with a vicious cold :( I’ve been a zombie at work and barely gotten any studying or working out done in the evenings. Hopefully I’m all better by this weekend, because we’re going out on the town to celebrate Mike’s bday!

Alexa and Andrew’s Wedding!

This past weekend, Mike and I had the honor of being part of Alexa and Andrew’s wedding!! We drove up to NY on Friday to attend the rehearsal and dinner, and woke up to perfect weather on Saturday for the wedding.

Decadent dessert from the rehearsal dinnerDSC03112The wedding was only the second full Catholic mass that I’ve attended, and the elements of the ceremony really conveyed the significance of the wedding vows and the promise that they were making to each other. I teared up several times (funny because my eyes were perfectly dry on our own wedding day). After the ceremony was concluded, we piled into the limo and drove around to a couple of spots to take pictures. The drive from the church to the reception in Cold Spring is incredibly picturesque, and the couple had chosen a few locations to take fun bridal party pictures!

Alexa looking absolutely beautiful in her dress!DSC03122Mike and I snuck out at one point to take a few ourselves :)
DSC03116Me and Vivian!DSC03120We made our way to the reception location, and spent the rest of the night eating good food, listening to funny and touching toasts (Alexa’s dad gave the best wedding toast I’ve heard – he could be a stand-up comedian), and getting our dance on. DSC03123 DSC03125 The whole wedding was filled with touches that were just so them, like these high-fiving cake toppers!DSC03128
One of the things that I loved most about the whole day was that these are two of the most thoughtful people in the world, and they looked for ways to make the day special to other people too, like involving as many people as they could in their ceremony and playing their parents’ wedding songs at the reception. Alexa even asked my mom to play piano at the cocktail hour, so my mom was able to attend as well!

Congratulations Alexa and Andrew – we’re so, so happy for you both and were incredibly honored to be part of your special day!

Training Log (Sept 15-21)

Switching gears only slightly (lol), here’s my training recap from last week. I took the weekend off completely, so I had a whopping 4 rest days! Here are the days I did work out:

Tuesday - 2 x 1 mile @ fast tempo (8:45 pace) followed by a yoga class
I was nervous for this workout because I wasn’t sure if I could maintain a faster pace for a whole mile, but my once a week speed workouts must be paying off! The last couple of minutes of each mile was tough, but I was able to hold the pace. Full workout included a mile warmup, the 2 x 1 mile with a half mile recovery in between, and a half mile cool down for a total of 4 miles.

Thursday - 3.75 easy miles on the treadmill (11:11 pace)
This was the day I had terrible side-stitches the whole run and stopped the workout early. Still not sure what was going on, but we all have good days and bad days!

Friday - 6 miles outside (9:39 pace)
This was a great, great run outside. My pace was strong for the first 5 miles, and while I faded a bit at the end, I didn’t have to walk. Paces: 8:54, 9:28, 9:39, 9:36, 10:16, and 10:05.

Saturday - hours of dancing and standing must count for something, right?

My goal this week is to get four runs in and have another strong “long” run. I’m doing 6 miles again, but going to aim for negative splits this time.

What was your best run or workout last week?

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I’m Dreaming of…Nicecream

I had a weird run this morning; I woke up at 6 and got on the treadmill to do a couple of easy miles, only to be plagued by bad side cramps a mile in. I stopped and walked and tried to run again, only to have the cramps come back after a half mile or so. I repeated the pattern a few times, and I finally quit a quarter mile short of my intended 4 miles. I don’t think I’ve ever had such persistent side stitches before – not sure what was going on! Hopefully my run tomorrow goes off “without a stitch”, haha. Sorry, I had to.

Summer DC Eats

It’s been a while since I’ve done a “Week of Eats”/ “Recent Eats” post – mostly because we’ve been eating a lot of frozen food, shakes and canned soups since we haven’t had time to cook. And when we eat out, we tend to go to the same 4-5 places (Pho Golden Cow, Edy’s Chicken and Steak for peruvian chicken, Thai in Shirlington, and sushi from Fresh Market). But we did try a couple of new places this summer, including my new favorite dessert – Nicecream Factory!
Nicecream Factory is a liquid nitrogen ice cream parlour that opened up this summer in Arlington to rave reviews. We checked it out in July when Mike’s brother D was in town, because what kid doesn’t like ice cream?
I originally thought that the liquid nitrogen would be used to freeze pre-made ice cream into a solid form, and then the solid ice cream would be smashed into small chunks, sort of like dipping dots. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, that’s okay because I was wrong.

The Nicecream is actually made on the spot by mixing fresh milk, cream, sugar and mix-ins like chopped strawberries or pistachios, and then adding the liquid nitrogen to turn the mixture into ice cream on the spot.
We ordered a strawberry and a nutella ice cream, and could immediately taste/ feel the difference in freshness and flavor. The ice cream was incredibly creamy, and the strawberry ice cream had chunks of (real, fresh) strawberries throughout!
I think it’s awesome that Nicecream started as a pop-up funded by a Kickstarter campaign and then became successful enough to move into a more permanent space! I’ll probably be keeping this place open throughout the winter once marathon training starts ;)

We got burgers earlier that evening from BGR The Burger Joint, and I got mine lettuce-wrapped again.  Bread doesn’t do that much for me, so I’d rather save my carbs and stomach for the sweet potato fries.
DSC02941Probably the biggest onion rings I’ve ever seen, and while they get zero points for presentation, they were goood.
DSC02943 DSC02944We ate at three or four different burger joints while D was here (burgers are one of his favorite foods, lol), and asked him to rate them at the end. No surprise – Ray’s was the winner, but BGR was a close second.  I’d probably rate them in that order too, although I also love Elevation‘s veggie burgers.

And last but not least, we tried a new sushi place down the street – Kyoto Sushi.
Prices were good, but the quality at Sushi Jin in Burke was a LOT better (much fresher fish). I was also a little startled when I bit into a piece of fish that I thought was salmon, only to discover it was smoked salmon! I’d only eat the rolls here, but for my money, I’d rather get supermarket sushi from Fresh Market next door…

If you eat sushi, do you prefer rolls or nigiri (the fish with rice)? Mike’s a purist and prefers the nigiri, but (shhhh) I prefer the rolls with all kinds of tasty sauce ;)


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