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My next comeback race: a 5K

Spring is here!

I haven’t run a good race in over 1.5 years and I’m bored of running slow.  I’m going to change things up a bit with my running!

Ever since I started running five years ago, I focused on running long distance races.  Now to change things up, I am signed up to do a 5K race 7 weeks from now.  Because I did no speed workouts for the last 1.5 years, I’ve lost quite a bit of running fitness.  Track workouts and tempo runs will be back in my life again.  They are keys to getting faster.

My (preliminary) goal for this upcoming 5K is 23 minutes or under.  That’s 7:23 pace.  I’m not in shape now but I think it’s doable.  The only other short race I’ve run was a 10K and I ran a 7:26 pace… two years ago when I was much fitter.

I will document my training journey for the next seven weeks.  Writing about it on the blog will hold me accountable to continue training hard 🙂

Today (Saturday), I squeezed in a short track workout during my 10 miler.  I warmed up with 5 miles easy then did 10 x 1 minute at my neighborhood track.  I ran 1 minute fast, 1 minute of jog/recovery, and repeated 10 times.  I set my Garmin to beep every minute at track and I didn’t even look at my watch for pace.  My FAVORITE part of each speed workout is reading the pace afterward!  It’s so satisfying.

garmin

It’s my first track workout in a long time so short intervals were a good start.  There’s much progress to be made in the next few weeks.  I’m excited for the new training cycle!

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A brief race report:

I ran Rock n Roll San Francisco half marathon three weeks ago.  I ran 1:59 and it was my second slowest half marathon to date!!!  My slowest was my first ever half marathon in 2012 and finished at 2:01.  This shows how unfit I’ve become (and it kicked me in the rear to train again.)

My favorite part of the course was this….  there was a major hill to climb toward Golden Gate Bridge, and there were pictures of fallen soldiers lining the course for a good half mile or longer.  It’s such an emotional, touching part of the race.

My second favorite part of the race course was running on Golden Gate Bridge.  The highlight for me was seeing my dad on my return route on the bridge.  We highfived each other but our hands missed and we just kept running.

Finish line was pretty crowded but it’s normal.

My dad finishing his very first half marathon!  We couldn’t be more proud.

He has his eyes on a PR in his next race in August!

Have a nice weekend, and Happy Easter to those who celebrate!

Age is just a number?

What is old? What is Aging? What do you considered as “old”?

I truly believe you are what you feel inside. If you feel young inside, you’re truly young.

But this week, I started to ponder if I am truly crossing the bridge to the “old” side.  My old boss passed away this week.  

Normally a former coworker passing wouldn’t have caused me to think much (as we have had news like this about retirees in recent years) but this time its making me think a little deeper.  For one, I’ve taken over his office space 8 years ago.  He retired in 2009 and I had taken over his role in the program and crawled my way up to his position.  And as I was sitting in his former office, which is now mine for the past 7+ years, I started to reminisce about my former boss.

He was a good man and a good manager.  He was 70+ when he retired.  After his retirement, he came to visit our group for lunch once in 2009 or 2010. That was when I last spoken to him.   I would’ve kept in touch with him but we had nothing else in common except our research program and I had a feeling he would rather enjoy his retirement and not be associated it with our program anymore.

So this got me to thinking about aging and getting old.  

Sure, age is just a number and we all say that, but there are certain events in life that make you feel older than you feel. It could be your closest friend getting married but you’re not; maybe your friend giving birth to their third child, or spotting that first gray hair or the first time noticing those deep crow’s feet around your eyes; or it could also be the people you crossed path in your life starting to die.

To me, the deaths of people I know is what makes me feel old.   Death is just a part of life… the end of life… and we all struggle to accept it for what it is.  

I am approaching 33 years old, and I just found out from my dentist today that I need to take out my 4th wisdom tooth. I got 3 wisdom teeth taken out many years ago and thought I could get away with not getting the 4th taken out, but what could I say… that 4th wisdom tooth is poking out of my gum at this ripe old age of 33.

So yes I will be getting my wisdom tooth pulled out some time at the age of 33.

So this is enough thoughts for today.  I think I will continue to write picture-less posts in the future.

Print isn’t dead (yet)

My reading pile for the next 2-3 months.  Two from the library and the rest from my sister.

There’s something pleasurable about reading from actual books. It’s so comforting and cozy to read from a real book.  Print isn’t dead yet. There are people who refuse to do ebooks because real books give them the pleasures that ebooks cannot.   Now I understand.  I look forward to coming home from work, have dinner then immerse myself into whatever book I’m reading. 

Currently I’m reading Still Alice from the pile.  The books I mentioned in my last post were also SO good, I’m so happy that I’m finally discovering books that I love again.  Last whole year I felt like I was in a reading rut.  I’m rediscovering my love for books and loving this feeling!

My goal updates #1

March is here!  A few posts back, I wrote about setting 3 goals for 2017. Let’s see how I’m doing…

Goal #1: Read 25 books in 2017

I finished 6 books so far in 2017.  I’ve been enjoying all the books I’ve been reading, but my favorite one has to be this book written by J.K. Rowling, published under pseunonyn Robert Galbraith.


As someone who was obsessed with the entire Harry Potter series many years ago, I was thrilled to find a new series of adult books under the same author.  I was also worried that this would not live up to the expectation of Harry Potter’s awesomeness.  It was different from HP (of course) and still perfectly written. J K Rowling does not disappoint.   Never a dull moment with her writings.  There were clues given throughout the book and they were unraveled in the final pages. And I’m sure more clues will be given throughout the series that will continue to connect the dots and solve the mysteries… I hope this is gonna be a long series!

And I made an effort to pick up a real book (versus reading it on my kindle :))

I am currently reading:

 


Goal #2: Average 15000 steps a steps per day on AVERAGE

I knew this was going to be a difficult goal to achieve especially with the nonstop rains in the last few months.  My year-to-date average right now is almost 13000 steps a day (6.5 miles roughly) according to my iPhone’s built-in app.   Weather has gotten better since last week and I’ve been more active outdoor since. So I will be slowly increasing my average going into warmer months in the spring! Slowly but surely!

Year to date = 12900 average 

February average = 13700 average

Last week average = 17300 average


Cannot wait to start running in shorts again!

Goal #3: Try one new Instant Pot recipe each month

I’ve been doing pretty well with this goal! 


So far this year, I’ve used my Instant Pot to make steel cut oats, garbanzo beans (from dry beans), black eyes peas, and a variety of stews. I love the convenience of just turning it on and forget about it until the timer beeps.

 

Chickpeas after pressurecooked for 35 minutes. (Tea bag was used for color for a curry recipe) A year or so ago I boiled dry chickpeas on stovetop for 2 hours and they were not nearly as soft as the pressure cooker method! 

Another batch:

Having these goals is really motivating me to keep reading, cooking, and staying active 🙂

See you next post!

 

A weekend in San Diego 

We enjoyed the sunny San Diego for a long weekend a few weekends ago.  It was such a nice break from a streak of heavy rains in the Bay Area that seemed to last forever.

We used our frequent flyer miles to fly free for this trip! Thank you, United! 

We did a little bit of (mostly window) shopping at Fashion Valley Mall.

It was the Lunar New Year’s Day!

Went to this cute part of town. No idea what else was there.

We yelped some taco places and ended up here as our first meal: El Zarape

We had some time to kill before checking into hotel so we checked out Ocean Beach and the pier.  There was a small yoga fair happening…


For dinner, we found this carribean restaurant called Embargo Grill and checked it out. It was so delicious and the pisco sours I had was strong! 


Then we stopped by Hammond’s Ice Cream for a little sampler of scones. They were so small and not enough to be shared.

So we drove to a nearby mall to look for more treats! (Somebody wanted DQ… ahem) 

Both malls we went to were outdoor and they’re both nice and airy.  Considering how nice San Diego weather is year round, I can see why the malls are outdoor.

Next morning, I went on a semi long run from our hotel to Balboa Park.  V went running on his own and we ran into each other at the park. (This happens a lot back home too.) The pic below was taken with a self-timer on my phone 😄

Balboa Park has a bunch of small museums grouped together. Really beautiful architecture!

After the run and washing up, we went out for brunch at another taco place: Oscar’s.  We both agreed the food here was even better than the previous day.

We figured we should squeeze in a little sightseeing on this trip (having been to the zoo and Seaworld years ago and didn’t want to go again) so we decided to check out La Jolla Cove. 

We didn’t know what to expect to see at La Jolla, but we were both so wowed by many sea lions there. 

They were napping so close to the parking lot! They didn’t give a damn about people watching them.

Later in the day, we went to V’s cousin’s wedding at a church.

The reason why we went on a somewhat impromptu trip to San Diego: to witness their marriage!

It was a short and sweet dessert reception. It was over by about 4pm.

We went out to dinner later for some drinks and BBQ at Woodranch.

Next morning, on our last day, I went out for a short 3-mile run around the hotel and this was the view from the parking lot!  (I miss Hawaii!)

Mirror selfie #OOTD pose.  Ready for brunch!

Later, we checked out of hotel and drove to Del Mar about 20 minutes north of San Diego to meet up with my cousin and her husband.  It was a warm day and we hadn’t seen this much sun in a while so we soaked it all in.  There was a yoga class in session at the beach! 

Our brunch at Jake’s was very good.

Their take on SF’s ciopinno.  

Then we headed back to the airport to go home. Airport has a Phil’s BBQ location and we didn’t know it’s such a well known place down in SD.  Their original location has over 10,000 reviews on yelp and 4.5 stars!

That’s all for a 3-day trip! 

It’s already February… I will do a 2017 resolution update very soon 🙂 

Seattle weekend getaway 

My husband V and I went to Seattle over the MLK holiday weekend just for two nights. We had some points with Southwest that paid for most of our airfares.   

Since the trip was 2 weeks ago, I’m just going to post some highlights.

It was our second time in Seattle but our first time going there together.  Our goal of the weekend was to relax and eat as much as possible! That can easily be done on any trip 🙂


(I actually DO love Diet Coke)

Our cute air bnb apartment close by Pike’s Place.


We went to Pike’s Place a few times during our stay and tried as much food as we could manage to eat.  


Piroshky Piroshky… warm and buttery.

Beechers‘ Mac and cheese. I thought it was not bad…. but $11 for a small cup where you have to eat by a counter (most ppl had to stand and eat on street) was a highway robbery.

Pike’s Place looked as cute as ever and more fun with many people walking around.

And we got more food to-go to eat at our air bnb.

Next morning, we got up and early to walk to Pike’s Place.

First stop was the famous The Crumpet Shop.  This place gets packed later in the day and usually sells out of crumpets by the late afternoon. We went there at 8am and had the place all to ourselves!



Crumpets were very good, especially the sweet maple butter one.

Then… of course we had to stop by the world’s very first Starbucks location. 

I ordered a chai latte and they made me a regular latte. It’s okay, I forgave them.  

We walked to Space Needle.


I tried to pick a banana from a tree nearby but it was too tall.


Walked up a hill to Kerry Park. Don’t go in the morning, it’s against the sunlight so it’s hard to see the view. 

Then we took uber to another part of town, Fremont. I wanted to see this troll but expected it to be much larger than this.


Food highlight of the trip: this Caribbean meal at Paseo Carribean. Scallops over rice plate and a big fat sandwich.


After lunch, we went back to downtown to do a little bit of (window)shopping and went back to our air bnb to rest.

We really wanted to try Pike Place’s chowder but we didn’t want to wait in line nor we wanted to eat standing up at a corner. So we opted for a restaurant in Bell Town to chow down and the food was good! The place was called Local 360 and they serve locally sourced food.



My favorite thing at this place: Poutine with a twist.


Double chocolate creme brulee 

On our last day, we had to go to Seattle’s most famous donut shop: Top Pot, for breakfast. Might I say, it was 6am. What can you say, we are morning people 🙂 


Maple bar with bacon bits, Bavarian cream filled donut, lemon frosted donut, and our cups of coffee. Mine was ovaltine latte! (I grew up with ovaltine in Burma!)

It was the shortest trip we had even taken together but it was still really nice to have this change of scenery! 

My 2017 Resolutions

Happy New Year! It’s a new year for new beginnings! So refreshing.

First of all, my husband started a blog on sustainable and healthy living topics. Check it out:  Modest Health.  Several good articles have already been written based on his knowledge of working in a sustainable business environment and his personal experience in a healthy, fitness lifestyle (he’s a marathoner… and a fast one)

Now let’s get to my 2017 goals!

I started working toward these goals since last month already.  I couldn’t wait til a turn of a new calendar to get started.  

I made sure that my goals are MEASURABLErealistic, and attainable.

Goal # 1:  Read at least 25 books in 2017

I somehow slacked off on reading in 2016. Blame it on life changes such as moving and getting married. Also blame it on traveling more than I ever had in my life. I just didn’t find the inspiration to read last year. So I finished only 13 books.  (I list all the books I read on Goodreads so it’s easy to keep track.)


I entered these Reading Challenges on Goodreads.  I read 51 books in 2011, versus  13 books in 2016.  I’m sure I can find more time to read.  I already went to library twice last week to get books so I am on track. 

Goal #2:  Learn at least one new Instant Pot recipe per month

We received an Instapot or IPot from our wedding registry (thanks, jie!) 


(Instant Pot)

So far I’ve used it a few times to make basic stews.  I would like to find new recipes because that thing can do so much more! There are many web forums and blogs dedicated to IPotting and electric pressure cooking.  One new recipe each month with IPot seems doable.  I’ve been in a cooking rut lately so this will be good for me.

Goal #3:  Take 15000 steps per day on average 

I don’t have a Fitbit or Apple Watch and I don’t want to obsess over the numbers on a daily basic.  Having said that, I do look at my iPhone’s built-in Health App once in while to see my activity levels. 

I carry the phone with me on my runs so the steps are counted.  (Since I resetted my phone recently, I lost my data for last year to report).  My typical work days can range anywhere from 10000 to 20000 steps depending on whether I run and how far I run. Weekends are a little more active, around 25000 steps. On average I was around 13000 steps each day in 2016.

Below is an example of my steps yesterday. It’s not accurate sometimes but good enough. I ran 5 miles in the morning,  then walked to a supermarket and a donut shop about 15 minutes away later on in the day. So the numbers should be a little higher… but close enough.


So let’s say my daily average in 2016 was 13000 steps.  I will try to increase it to 15000 steps  in 2017!  I walk a lot on my work commute and I like to run so this is an attainable goal.

If you haven’t tried this app, just open the app and see how much you’ve been walking.  The app is built-in on iPhone 5S and later generations.  The data are at your finger tips!

The App on iPhone >>  

I will try to report my progress on all three of these goals periodically!  So stay tuned for that :). Now that I wrote those down and published the goals, I will have to make these happen!!!

Have a great 2017!

Chicago Christmas (video edition)

Happy Holidays!

We visited Chicago to celebrate Christmas with my now in-laws!


I didn’t take many pics but my husband created a 7-minute video to capture the highlights of our holidays!

Happy New Year!



Day 7-8 Barcelona: Montserrat, revisiting favorites

This is our last full day in Barcelona!

It’s raining hard in the morning so we scratched our plan to run. I got a simple cheese and tomato on baguette for breakfast and it was the best sandwich I had on this trip! 

I’ve been enjoying those simple sandwiches here with either cheese, jamon (Spanish prosciutto) or both. So simple and salty but delicious!

We had done all the sightseeing we wanted to do in Barcelona. So today we decided to go out of town for a day trip.


We took a train to Montserrat mountains an hour away from Barcelona.

Then waited for the big gondola ride (Funicular) to take us to the top of the mountain.

It’s a rainy foggy day and it’s a little more chilly than Barcelona out here.  The leaves were bright yellow! So pretty.  It was already a little foggy on the mountain as you can see.

The gondola ride fits 30 people at a time.

It was the most scenic gondola ride I’ve ever been on.  SOO magical.

An hour train ride was already worth it with this view.  


When we got to the top, the fog was already thick and we couldn’t see much of the mountain anymore.   There is a small village and a monastery with a basilica.


 

And the basilica:

Candles in different colors were lit. Such a peaceful, serene sight.

As you can see in my pictures, Barcelona doesn’t appear to be as touristy as other big cities like Paris. Maybe it’s their off peak season? 


It’s so nice not to see many tour groups and selfie sticks and we could take pictures without a lot of people in the background.


We had some time before coming back down on gondola. We warmed up with cafe con leche and a croissant 🙂


The gondola ride back down had no view. It was completely white-out by fog.  Such a shame because there were just us two in the car!


Then we took an hour long train back to central Barcelona.

Since it’s our last day here, our eating plan was to eat all the tapas we will miss. We went back to the tapa counter on our first day here to order our favorite tripe entree.

Beer for the Mr. and cava for the Mrs. 

This place served us amazing food again. We also ordered mussels and an octopus plate with lots of bread to soak up all that sauce and olive oil!

La Bouqueria has a few tapa counters. We could still eat more so we went to another tapa counter called Pinotxo Bar to order a few snack items. 

The place was made famous by Rick Steves in one of his old pbs episodes. He ordered chickpeas.  So everyone at the counter was also eating chickpeas.


So we ordered just that, plus our drinks (coke light and coffee) and a croissant to scoop up the oil in chickpeas.

The chickpea dish was indeed pretty good and I would love to make it at home.  When I said that to V, the server heard us and told us how to make it 🙂 I’m not sure it will taste like it when we make it at home, but basically he said to cook chickpeas in olive oil with garlic, tomato, onion, sea salt, parsley, chimmichurri sauce (I believe it contains beef) and a splash of balsamic vinegar.   The chickpeas were softer than canned beans. I will need to use my Instant Pot and make this dish at home SOON!

Then I picked up some fancy Mediterranean salt flakes as souvenirs. 


V got his juice from juice stand. 4th time on this trip but who’s counting?  Me 😉 

This was coconut milk with pineapple.

Lettuce? Pretty big.

Walking around the Gothic Quarter and El Born district was one of our favorite things to do on this trip and we have already spent countless hours doing that. It’s just very relaxing and interesting to people-watch and shop at European stores we’ve never been to or heard of.


Christmas decorations and snow globes were being set up.  I bet the town is going to look very festive in a week.

For dinner, our last chance at tapas, we walked around for a while until we decided on one that appealed to us the most.  And we were so satisfied by what they had to offer. Bueno!



We got a chocolate cake to go for dinner from Bubo. It won the world’s best chocolate cake many years ago and is still their best seller.


So decadent and a perfect ending to our meal!
Day 8: Going back home!

Our flight was at noon. We started the day with a 4-mile run then went to Pans for breakfast. One last visit! Who knows when we will be back in Barcelona again.

They burnt my croissant sandwich and I had to exchange it for a fresh one. Here is a burnt croissant and a fresh one I got in exchange. Hmm.


So sad that honeymoon has come to an end but also very excited to go back home to start the new chapter of our lives together!  There will be many more adventures in our future. 


Plus it’s Thanksgiving tomorrow 🙂 

Ciao!

Day 6 Barcelona: Sagrada Familia, Cooking Seafood from La Boqueria 

For breakfast, we had mini brioche and empanadas.

Empanadas shop/bakery:

And FINALLY, after 5 days in Barcelona, we were finally at Barcelona’s most iconic attraction and Antoni Gaudi’s most famous work: Sagrada Familia church.

It’s so much bigger than I pictured it in my mind based on what I saw in other people’s pictures.

One of my pet peeves is when the top of the buildings we want pictured gets cut off in pictures. I’m grateful for this man who took pics for us. He even moved around to get good shots. But  why couldn’t he point the camera up just a littlemore to get the whole building? :/ Look here:

We were early and there weren’t people around who could take pictures for us especially in the rain. 

The interior was also pretty magnificent.  We listened to an audio tour to get a better understanding of all these unique designs.

Stained glasses are warmer toned where the sun rises.

The back side of the church. 


Sagrada Familia is still under construction and is expected to be completed by 2026…. the centenery of Gaudi’s death.

We finished touring around 10am and were hungry again.  We went to a random cafe for brunch!


It was pretty heavy and held us over until dinner time.

We took it easy for the rest of the day. We went to La Boqueria AGAIN… but to buy fresh seafood to cook this time.

Then Carrefour supermarket for produce and more.


And picked up fresh bread from a bakery.

We spent some time walking the alleys in Gothic Quarter again before retiring back at our place for dinner.


Dinner was served!  We finished everything surprisingly because it looked like so much food.


We used the dried mushrooms from farmers market a few nights ago. Cooked with white wine, garlic, and olive oil.


It was still early in the evening around 6pm. So we got out to get desserts.

Churros and hot chocolate seem to be a thing here. Many places advertise that they have it. So we curiously had to try!

The churros were different from Mexican churros we are used to back home. The ones we had here had more glutinous/sticky texture and not covered in cinnamon sugar.  Just a light sprinkle of sugar.  I would get those again! So good to dip in hot chocolate.

V still had sweet tooth after churros and hot chocolate (wth?!?)


And that was the end of our early night!