Life Lately

Hey friends! I’ve been a bit absent on the blog front for a while, mostly because life has been busy and running has taken a bit of a back seat.  I thought I’d talk about what’s been going on around here lately, and provide an update on the running front.

1. We went to Disney! I had such a great time at Disney with my two friends a few years ago, and I really wanted to take Mike (he’s been to Disney Land but not World). When we saw that the Epcot Food and Wine festival coincided with a good deal on rooms this year, we booked our trip! We had an awesome time at all 4 parks, ate a ton of food, watched all the shows, and rode our favorite rides. I only wish it had been about 20 degrees cooler ;)0915161417_hdr

2. We celebrated Mike’s 30th bday! Our trip was also just a few days before Mike’s birthday, so we celebrated at Morimoto’s new restaurant in Disney Springs one night. To be honest, I thought our sushi platter was over-priced and sub-par (supermarket quality), but the cooked dishes (lobster chow fun and crispy branzino) and desserts were excellent. I keep telling Mike he’s my “older man” now (I’m about 7 months from 30 ;)0918161925_hdr

3. Lucy is doing fine. Despite the fact she might have lung cancer, Lucy seems to be doing well right now! I’m feeding her extra kibble and pumpkin to fatten her up a little, and I also ordered this L-lysine supplement that’s supposed to help with eye and respiratory function (she wheezes every once in a while). I can’t tell if the supplement is doing anything, but she LOVES it.

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Source: inclover.com

4. I love my class this semester. I’m pursuing an Operations Research masters at GMU, and was really dreading my fall class (Discrete Systems Modeling) and even considering dropping it because 60% of the grade is from a semester-long group project and I have lingering group-project-trauma from my middle/high school days.  But I got over my anxiety and found two great partners for my group! The class is also really fun because we’re learning to use a modeling software. So happy I sucked it up and didn’t drop the class.

5. Church small group has started. After a break for the summer, we’re meeting every Friday night with our church small group again. I really like the people in the group and want to be more involved this year, so I volunteered myself (and Mike) to be activity coordinators for the group! It’s not a lot of work – we just have to pick and schedule 2-3 activities a semester for group bonding time. So far, we’re thinking hiking, bowling, and dimsum!

6. My sleep is suffering again. After a couple of months of stellar sleep, my insomnia came back. After a couple of weeks of reaching for the ambien or nyquil every night, I finally bit the bullet this week and increased my thyroid meds. It took a few days, but I slept about 10 hours last night with no sleep meds, so I’m hoping this new dose is it.

7. I haven’t been running much. With all the above, my motivation for running has been really low. I decided to drop Richmond to a half marathon, and will be running 4-5 days a week instead of 6. This gives me time to do more cross training and/or sleep in until I feel 100%. I think my full marathon days may be behind me for a while, until I decide I’m really ready for the commitment and pain. Honestly, I’m more than okay with that and am excited to rock the half marathon distance this fall!

Lucy

This is my cat Lucy.DSC02835.JPG

In the fall of 2009, we went to the animal shelter to find a companion for our first cat Buster. While we saw several nice cats, my decision was made for me when Lucy walked into the room, promptly jumped onto my lap, and started purring. She’s been my cat ever since – following me around from room to room and sitting on my lap when I’m at my desk, on the couch, or even at the dinner table.  She got used to Mike and loves him too, but from day 1, she’s been my cat.0119150723.jpg

On a Thursday night two weeks ago, we made an impromptu decision to take her to the vet because she had been throwing up more than usual and had lost a bit of weight. I figured that she was developing a sensitive stomach as an older cat and thought the vet would tell us to feed her a different type of kibble. The vet took a few xrays and did some bloodwork to see if she could determine what was going on. She brought us back to the labwork area later that evening to point out a light-colored mass in Lucy’s lungs, and asked to send it to a radiologist for a diagnosis.

Friday afternoon, the vet called me with the one word you never you want to hear: cancer.

I was a mess for the next couple of days, and even took a little time off work because I couldn’t hold it together.  I stopped running because I couldn’t muster the energy and spent time cuddling her on the couch instead (she quickly got tired of all the attention, lol).  The truth is, I know Lucy is an animal and I’ve dealt with loss and grief on a far bigger scale – but somehow the loss of a beloved pet who’s been my companion for most of my 20s (and who’s been a comfort during some of the toughest periods of my life) is incredibly difficult to face.  1219151419a.jpg

We’ve decided not to pursue treatment (there’s also a slim chance it’s not cancer, but we won’t know without more expensive tests) and just keep her comfortable and happy as long as we can, especially since she looks quite healthy right now.  I’m also going to stop grieving her (in the words of Monty Python, “I’m not dead yet!”) and enjoy her company as long as I can.1124142122~2.jpg

I’ll be back with more #runchat next week, but this has been what’s on my heart and mind for the last couple of weeks.  Thanks for letting me share.

The Best Books I Read in August

I’m doing something new with my book round ups going forward – I’ve been reading so much lately that instead of listing and talking about all the books I’ve read (about 20-25 last month alone), I’m picking the top 3-5 books or so I’ve read each month.  For August, the six below make the list. Several of them are pretty dark – either apocalyptic or WWII – but they’re all books that I found memorable or that made me think.august books

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman – Sussex, England. A middle-aged man returns to his childhood home to attend a funeral. Although the house he lived in is long gone, he is drawn to the farm at the end of the road, where, when he was seven, he encountered a most remarkable girl, Lettie Hempstock, and her mother and grandmother. He hasn’t thought of Lettie in decades, and yet as he sits by the pond (a pond that she’d claimed was an ocean) behind the ramshackle old farmhouse, the unremembered past comes flooding back. And it is a past too strange, too frightening, too dangerous to have happened to anyone, let alone a small boy. (From Goodreads) My thoughts: A friend introduced me to Neil Gaiman in high school, and I’ve found his storytelling either too strange or wondrously enchanting. This book fell in the latter category for me – I love the strength of the two younger characters against a mysterious and terrifying world.

A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess – In Anthony Burgess’s nightmare vision of the future, where criminals take over after dark, the story is told by the central character, Alex, who talks in a brutal invented slang that brilliantly renders his and his friends’ social pathology. A Clockwork Orange is a frightening fable about good and evil, and the meaning of human freedom. When the state undertakes to reform Alex—to “redeem” him—the novel asks, “At what cost?” (From Goodreads) My thoughts: This is a high school classic that I somehow never read and wow, I would not have been ready to read this 10 years ago. It is a dark, dark book about the draw of evil and what goodness really means.

Running with the Kenyans by Adharanand Finn – “A dusty road stretches into the distance like a pencil line across the arid landscape. Lions, rhino, and buffalo roam the plains on either side. But I haven’t come to Kenya to spot wildlife. I’ve come to run.” – quote from the book  My thoughts: At first, I thought the author was ridiculous for re-locating his whole family to Africa to train for a race (okay, I still do), but it was pretty interesting to learn about the Kenyan style of training and understand a little more why they’ve come to dominate the marathon distance.

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel – An audacious, darkly glittering novel set in the eerie days of civilization’s collapse, Station Eleven tells the spellbinding story of a Hollywood star, his would-be savior, and a nomadic group of actors roaming the scattered outposts of the Great Lakes region, risking everything for art and humanity. (From Goodreads) My thoughts: This was such an unusual post-apocalyptic novel – it weaves between the before and after in a fragmented way at first, but starts to come together in the middle of the book. I also enjoyed the beautiful portrayal and symbolism of art and culture struggling to survive in a darkened world.

Once We Were Brothers by Ronald H. Balson – Elliot Rosenzweig, a respected civic leader and wealthy philanthropist, is attending a fundraiser when he is suddenly accosted and accused of being a former Nazi SS officer named Otto Piatek, the Butcher of Zamosc. Although the charges are denounced as preposterous, his accuser is convinced he is right and engages attorney Catherine Lockhart to bring Rosenzweig to justice. Solomon persuades attorney Catherine Lockhart to take his case, revealing that the true Piatek was abandoned as a child and raised by Solomon’s own family only to betray them during the Nazi occupation. But has Solomon accused the right man? (From Goodreads) My thoughts: I originally bought this book only because it was a Kindle sale item, but found myself unable to put it down. It tells the story of two brothers slowly torn apart by the war, and the legal efforts afterwards to bring a betrayer to justice. I found the transformation of the characters and relationships to be both realistic and sad.

Sarah’s Key by Tatiana de Rosnay – Paris, July 1942: Sarah, a ten year-old girl, is brutally arrested with her family by the French police in the Vel’ d’Hiv’ roundup, but not before she locks her younger brother in a cupboard in the family’s apartment, thinking that she will be back within a few hours. Paris, May 2002: On Vel’ d’Hiv’s 60th anniversary, journalist Julia Jarmond is asked to write an article about this black day in France’s past. Through her contemporary investigation, she stumbles onto a trail of long-hidden family secrets that connect her to Sarah. Julia finds herself compelled to retrace the girl’s ordeal, from that terrible term in the Vel d’Hiv’, to the camps, and beyond. As she probes into Sarah’s past, she begins to question her own place in France, and to reevaluate her marriage and her life. (From Goodreads) My thoughts: Continuing on my WWII historical fiction kick, this book tells the story of a Jewish girl in France, whose family is subjected to a terrible fate. The author’s motivation for this story was to bring to light a lesser known massacre in the Vel d’Hiv’ and remember the French Jews that suffered at the hands of the Nazis and French officials. I don’t find these books easy or pleasant to read, but I read them to remind myself how easy it is to stand by and do nothing, and to steel myself to (hopefully) make the hard decisions that circumstances sometimes demand.

I’ll have some lighter books on the September list, I promise ;) What’s one thought-provoking book you’ve read lately?

Hanson’s Richmond Marathon Week 8 (36 Miles)

I’m so ready for fall. Unfortunately, it’s still in the 90s here in DC, although it looks like temps might start to fall next week. I’ve been telling myself to enjoy the last few weeks of tank tops and shorts and get in all the heat training I can. Thankfully, we got a bit of a respite in Boston this weekend – highs in the 70s and AM temps in the low 60s, so I took full advantage and got in some mileage!

Richmond Marathon Training: Week 8
Last week went much better than the week prior, although I was still getting over the tail end of my cold. I ended up skipping one of my planned runs, but I made up the mileage over the weekend.
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Tues: 5 X 1000 meters on T/M (total 7 miles)- After a 1.5 mile warmup, I ran 1000 meters around 6.8 speed, and jogged 400 meters – repeated 5 times. I had to cut repeats 2 and 5 short (~600 meters), so I did two 400 meter repeats at the end, followed by a cooldown jog for 7 miles. Not ideal, but I was proud of myself for pushing through this workout given I was still dealing with my cold.

Thurs:Planned 6 race pace miles on the T/M (total 7 miles)- After a half mile warmup, I held race pace speed (9:30) for about 2.5 miles before my legs felt like lead. I ended up jogging the rest of the miles and did another half mile for a cooldown.

Sat: 10 miles outside in Boston (10:49 pace) – I headed out to do two loops of the Fresh Pond trail, about a half mile from where we were staying. I felt terrible during the first mile, but I just counted my steps and focused on my podcast and breathing evenly. My legs started to warm up around mile 4 and it showed – the last 5 miles averaged around a 10:30 pace.

Sun: 12 miles outside (11:04 pace) – This was pretty much a repeat of Saturday’s run, with another quarter loop around the pond added in for two more miles. The run was going great till about mile 9 – I took a bad spill on the running trail (the pavement was very cracked up) and skinned my knees and hand. My knees were bleeding pretty badly, but they didn’t hurt (yet) so I used my water bottle to rinse the blood off a little and finished my run. I felt pretty sorry towards all the kids on the trail that had to see all that blood though =\ #badassrunner

My goal this week is to starting bringing back some intensity to my workouts (I need to start hitting my race pace runs) and doing core/strength work again. It’s less than 10 min a day and it improves my running form, so I just need to get off the couch for a few minutes after dinner and get it done.

5 Things We Did in Boston

We just came back from a weekend trip to Boston to see Mike’s sister Elizabeth, Mike’s dad (also visiting), and Mike’s brother Daniel, who just started college! The weather was absolutely perfect (highs in the 70s) and it really started to feel a little like fall.  Here were some of the highlights from the weekend – mostly food, because that’s how we roll ;)

1. Waited 4 hrs for dinner at Neptune Oyster
Mike’s dad’s bday happened to fall within our trip dates, so we decided to try the hottest seafood restaurant in the North End – Neptune Oyster.  We arrived at 3 PM to put our names on the list, only to be informed that our wait time would be approximately 4.5 hours, lol.  So we wandered around the North End and ate a few “snacks”.

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lobster rolls from a place a few doors down from Neptune Oyster and cannoli from Mike’s Pastries
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Clam chowder from Faneuil Hall yessss

And just as we were about to leave, we received a call from the restaurant that our table was ready! We weren’t hungry after all the food we ate, but we decided to go anyway and just get a little something to eat…you know, like a seafood tower and more lobster rolls, lol.09031619390903161927
2. Tosci’s ice cream0904161912a_hdrBurnt caramel now and forever.  Still my favorite ice cream flavor! The server convinced me to try the hot fudge topping this time and I did not regret it.

3. Brunch at Coppa

Elizabeth took us to this highly rated brunch spot in Boston, and it did not disappoint.  I loved the roasted grapefruit and the shakshuka (eggs poached in tomato sauce).  The food scene in Boston is really thriving!

4. Played with our Airbnb cat Caleb

We opted to rent an Airbnb in Belmont, about 10-15 minutes away from Cambridge since Mike’s dad was renting a car.  The house was beautiful and comfortable (check out that master bath), and came with a resident cat named Caleb! Felt just like home…including the part where Caleb woke us up at 6:30 AM every morning to feed him breakfast, lol.  Good thing we love cats ;)

We spent one day resting at home and watching a few movies, and decided to order just a few sushi rolls for lunch ;)0905161226_hdr

5. Explored the new Boston Public Market

We did do our fair share of walking every day, as most people tend to do in Boston – one of my favorite activities was exploring the new indoor public market! There are a bunch of gourmet food and foodstuff stalls.  If you go, be sure to get one of the fresh mini cider donuts from Red Apple Farm and the fresh seafood at Red’s Best.  If we had another day here, we would have picked up some seafood or meats here and cooked dinner at our place.

We got to check out Elizabeth’s new place and helped her put some Ikea furniture together, which definitely counts as a workout, right? I also got in some decent mileage on the trail around Fresh Pond (fairly close to where we were staying) – 10 miles on Saturday and 12 miles on Sunday.  The only bad news – I took a bad spill on the trail on Sunday around mile 9 and completely scraped up my knees :( I’ll spare you the bloody pic – suffice it to say that my left knee was badly skinned and will take several days to scab over.  Thankfully, no structural damage.

We also got to eat dinner with sister J and Andrew at a Korean BBQ/soup restaurant in Allston. So great to see them again, even for just an hour or two.  I feel so lucky that we got to spend so much time with family this weekend and am already looking forward to them again over Thanksgiving and Christmas!

Adjusting Marathon Training for Illness/Injury

So back to some running talk today! It’s taken me a lot longer to get over my cold than I originally thought – typically when I’m sick, it affects my running for a day or two so I either try to make up missed workouts later in the week or just jump right back into my plan when I’m recovered. But this time around, my cold affected my running for much longer; after two low mileage weeks, I knew I couldn’t just jump right into the next week as planned (going from 20 miles to 40+ miles=not a good idea).

Here’s how I adjusted my training to account for the low mileage weeks and ramp back up again, and some tips for how to adjust your training plan to do the same.

Training Plan Before
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Training Plan After
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  1. Adjust mileage to ramp up slowly – Rule of thumb: if you’ve been sick for a week or less, you can ramp up 10% from the week prior. For two weeks off, I’d recommend repeating a similar mileage to the week before you were sick and ramping up from there (that’s what I did in this case). Increasing weekly mileage by more than 10% is the surest way to cause overuse or other running injuries, as I can attest! If you’ve been sick for longer than 2-3 weeks, you might want to start over from a reasonable base mileage-type week again – whatever your mileage looked like prior to training.  I also gave myself an additional cross-training/rest day for the first couple of weeks in place of a run day for a slower ramp-up.
  2. Be conservative with intense workouts – similar to the above tip, you may want to replace the first couple of intense workouts with easy runs or easier workouts. Give your body some time to strengthen and toughen up again. For me, this meant re-doing some skipped speed workouts on Tuesdays, pushing the first strength workout on Tuesday into week 12.  That means I’ll miss a strength workout later on, but I’m okay with that.
  3. Re-consider your race goal – this is a big (and painful) one.  I know from the past that I’ve tried to jump right back into training with the same paces for workouts as before so that I didn’t have to change my goal for the race.  But I’ve learned that even two weeks off can significantly impact my training, and it’s far better to back off an aggressive goal and relax my expectations than to drive myself to finish workouts at a punishing pace and get burnt out or injured.  In my case, I’m adjusting my goal race time from 4:00 to 4:10, which makes my workout paces doable and more enjoyable :) In the past, there have been times when I abandoned a time goal altogether and focused my training on getting fit enough to finish the race.
  4. Make sleep/nutrition a priority – This isn’t related to your training plan, but it’s so important to make sure you’re taking care of yourself as you push your body back into training.  I’m making sure I’m getting lots of protein/veggies, drinking water, and getting to bed early to hit those AM workouts again ;)

I know it’s hard to abandon time goals and change training plans when you’ve paid for the race/ travel and have your heart set on a big PR.  I guess it helps me to remember that there will always be another race, another training cycle and the miles I put in now will help towards future goals.  For me, 4:10 will be a big PR anyway, and given my long illness/injury (hamstring, hyperthyroidism) earlier this year, I’m treating this training cycle as solid base-building for an awesome racing year in 2017.

Week 6 Training Log

Week 7 Training Log

Week 8 Training Log

Pineapple and Pearls

It’s not often that a restaurant/meal warrants a blog post of its own here (this is a running blog after all), but I thought our visit a few weeks ago to Pineapple and Pearls AKA P&P achieved that threshold. P&P opened earlier this year to great excitement thanks to its acclaimed chef/owner Aaron Silverman (2016 James Beard winner and chef/owner of the very popular Rose’s Luxury), strong emphasis on hospitality, and innovative cooking. There is no menu, the dishes change weekly/monthly, and you have to make a reservation in advance on their website. As part of their focus on hospitality, there’s also no check at the end of the night! You pay beforehand (flat cost, no tipping) when you make your reservation. Our waiter quipped, “It’s like uber for restaurants – when you’re done, you just leave!”

We decided to go as an early celebration for our 5th anniversary, and showed up Friday night at 5 PM with great anticipation. I’d read some of the reviews from magazines and food critics, but since the dishes change so frequently, we knew the evening would be a surprise. The next two hours included 13 courses with beverage pairings (we got 5-6 different drinks through the course of the meal).

The dining room is small and intimate, with about 30 seats and eclectic, modern Japanese-inspired decor. DSC04685Loved the view of the open kitchen!
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The dishes started coming shortly after we were seated, and each one was AMAZING and surprising. Each dish was either a play or twist on an existing version, or meant to highlight an ingredient in a new way.

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Fennel Absinthe Bonbon
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Boby Elotes (mexican street corn)
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Oysters and Vodka
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Black Pepper Pan Au Lait (bread course with strawberry preserves and butter foie)

You might be wondering, but what if I don’t like some of the ingredients/foods they use? When you make the reservation, there’s an opportunity to add notes about foods you strongly dislike or can’t eat. For me, I put down cilantro, and Mike noted squid/octopus. I was really impressed that they served us slightly different variations of dishes keeping those dislikes in mind. For example, the dish below came with a cilantro oil in Mike’s dish, but a basil oil in mine.

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Charred Sungold Tomatoes & Peach Broth

I’m glad I kept an open mind though – I totally forgot to note eggplant as one of my dislikes, so I was nervous when the waiter announced the dish below. Turned out to be one of my favorite dishes of the night! The eggplant had been pickled and diced to remove the rubbery/chewy texture and was so flavorful. I told the waiter how surprised I was to enjoy it, and he confessed that he was an eggplant hater too, but also loved this dish ;)

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Fairy Tale Eggplant Tart
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Fluke “Veronique” – scales on the fish replaced with thinly sliced grapes!

Sweetbread – another strong dislike of mine, but I didn’t know till afterwards the chicken wings below had been stuffed with them! They lended so much juiciness and flavor to the chicken, and the watermelon hot sauce was TO.DIE.FOR. This was probably my favorite dish of the night.

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Sweetbread Stuffed Chicken Wing
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Summer Red Curry & Coconut Rice – the broth is being infused
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Same dish as above – served with seafood and rice!

We were so full by the time the dessert courses started – we couldn’t eat more than a small bite of each, and I wish we could have taken a two hour break or so to enjoy these better! So much creativity went into each dish.

Blueberry Shortcake & Brillat-Savarin
Blueberry Shortcake & Brillat-Savarin
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Coffee Kakigori – shaved ice

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Roasted Fig Crostata and Sundae Bar (3 types of ice cream with toppings in background)

A little surprise at the end, with rainbow cake and pistachio ice cream!
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The only thing I could have wished for was more cocktails during the meal – we got several interesting wines and beer (probably some very expensive ones too), but I’m a cocktail/ bourbon girl all the way. They did serve one cocktail about 2/3 of the way through – the pea shoot concoction below – and it blew my mind! The muddled peas added such a fresh, sweet and unusual flavor.DSC04712
At the end of the meal, the chef gave us a lovely surprise – doggie bags with pistachio shortbread and coffee for the next morning, along with a note from the chef and a printout of the menu from the night. Such a nice way to carry the magic into the next day! DSC04730
I can honestly say that night was the most fun I’ve had at a high class restaurant. The dinner felt far from stuffy – we were relaxing on the pillows placed throughout the dining room and enjoying chatting to the staff. You can tell that they genuinely enjoy working there – the restaurant is one of the few that is only open on weekdays to allow their staff to take the weekend off, and everyone is paid a salary (instead of relying on customers’ tips). The server told me that no one has left from the day they opened, which is rare in the high-turnover restaurant industry. Such an awesome place to celebrate our 5th anniversary – thanks P&P! DSC04683