Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Guest Post: Eating Healthy on Vacation

I was recently contacted by reader Cole asking if I was interested in featuring his article about eating healthy while on vacation. I said 'yes' even though I've turned down a couple of other guest post requests recently mainly because I personally needed a reminder that going on vacation is not a free pass to eat whatever I want. I know when I am not careful, I will return from a vacation feeling bloated and lethargic for days. Don't get me wrong, vacations are meant for enjoying oneself and exploring new foods and places but with a little bit of preparation you can have your vacation and be healthy too!  

Eating Healthy on Vacation: How Not to Break Your Diet at the Hotel
You've survived the airport madness and the flight. You did a great job. You packed healthy snacks, you walked all over the terminal and you avoided the overpriced comfort food enticing you from every corner. You've also spent the better part of a day traveling, dealing with various hassles and too many annoying people. You're exhausted, and you're probably hungry. Lunch consisted of nuts and granola bars. Maybe your flight was late or delayed, so you've missed dinner. Now you've arrived at diet buster zone number two: the hotel.
Most hotels have gotten smart over the years. They understand that the vast majority of visitors are exhausted and hungry. Hotels have answered this need by providing full-service dining establishments in the hotel itself. Of course, there is also room service and other amenities. These establishments are usually open very late, and some may even operate room service on a 24-hour schedule. They make it as easy and tempting as possible to get healthy food, and it's not nearly as overpriced as the airport was.
Your first defense against that arrival craving is to be prepared. The hotel counts on you being too worn out to leave the hotel and get healthy alternatives at a nearby grocery store. The bed and room service call button can be irresistible. Don't let it get that far. Stop at the store to pickup some food for your stay right after you leave the airport. Buy at least get enough for dinner and snacking. Your other meals may already be planned out on a vacation, and your hotel probably serves free breakfast. Don't pay for what you don't have to. You're just investing in diet protection here. Nine times out of ten your hotel will have a mini fridge and microwave in the room. You can feel free to buy yogurt and other healthy snacks that will need refrigeration. Normally you will want to avoid microwave foods, but these can be desperate times, and not everything microwavable is terrible. Some frozen meals, like Healthy Choice or Lean Cuisine, are okay in a pinch if you want something that actually feels like a meal. Just don't go overboard. Instant soups or oatmeal are also great choices for hot food. They can easily be prepared with a microwave or coffeemaker to heat the water.
It is extremely important that you find the hotel that appropriately meets your needs for you to maintain your healthy lifestyle. Do a little research to ensure that all the necessary amenities are offered at your hotel. I recently took a trip out west and found a great site that listed reviews for hotels in Las Vegas regarding not only all of their amenities but also regarding restaurants nearby! This allowed me to not only have a great and healthy stay in my hotel but to also plan out where I can eat both nutritiously and deliciously.
Higher-class hotels may also be equipped with a minibar in the room. These are usually locked to prevent minors from accessing them. The hotel will relinquish a key to an adult guest. Alcohol may not seem all that heavy, but drinking calories is one of the surest ways to bust your diet. Minibars are also equipped with non-alcoholic sugary drinks and sodas. These are even worse. Your best defense here is to just not get the key. You can't succumb to the temptation of the door is still locked up.
Just because you are in a hotel doesn't mean you are barred from cooking. A small crock-pot can be saving grace in the hotel room, especially for longer stays. A crock-pot allows you to prepare hot and wholesome rice, chicken or vegetable dishes with ease and little hassle. Simply load up the pot before you leave for the day and return to a ready meal. Well-prepared hotel guests are healthier and happier.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Boston's North End

Boston is such a charming city! It's been a few years since I've traveled to the east coast but this city did not disappoint. In particular, I will be focusing on the North End of Boston in this post because I was surprised to find out that some of Boston's best eats were located in this part of town.

On our second day in Boston, we decided to take the "T" a couple of stops east of downtown Boston into the North End. I was so excited to be in Boston and could not wait to go exploring. We or rather I was also on the hunt for some delicious pre-race carb. The "T" was very crowded that day. I think maybe because of all of us tourist trying to get around Boston. It was standing room only by the time we hopped on. I don't use public transportation too much here in Socal so it is always an interesting experience when I have to use the subway system in other states. Apparently, I'm not very stable on my feet because everytime the train came to a stop I would almost fall over. I guess I'm also pretty fragile because I got motion sickness. Eventually, we do make it there despite my dramatic recount.

The street is called Hanover and it runs through Boston's Little Italy. Who knew that one could find some of the best Italian food and pastries this side of the Atlantic here in Boston. Not me! I mean baked beans, seafood and cream pies...yes...but Italian food as good as something you can get from the motherland? That just sounds like something I have to see taste to believe.

One of the first things we see getting out of the subway was this group of children playing violins at a small park as a part of some sort of fundraiser. They started to play Canon in D so we stopped to listen because my hubby loves that piece. They were so adorable and talented!

We walked into a deli which was located just across from where the kids were playing their violins. It was filled with meats and cheeses, fresh and dry pastas and all sorts of other yummy Italian groceries but we were on vacation and our hotel room did not include a kitchenette so we didn't buy anything but it smelled amazing in there.

Then we walked over to Hanover street.

Our first stop was Mike's Pastry. They are known all throughout the land for their amazing cannolis. I mean just look at that line to get into the store.

It was equally crazy on the inside!

They are a full blown bakery...

...but cannolis are what 'brings all the boys and girls to this yard'! I have to confess that I'm not a big cannoli fan. Please don't hate me if you are. I mean it's just cream in a pastry shell but even I have to admit that the cannolis at Mike's Pastry was out of this world. First, I can tell that they make the pastry fresh in the store because it was crunchy and it tasted fresh. Second, the cream filling had this incredible richness and there was lots of it. We selected the pistaschio crusted cannoli and as soon as I took a bite I understood why there is always a line to get into the store. Bellissima!

After our cannoli feast, we decided to walk over to the Paul Revere Mall not to be confused by a shopping mall. It's more like a side street. We lingered around this statue for a bit taking photos. I think there was a museum at the end of the mall but we decided to skip it.

Around lunchtime, the aroma of Italian food start to waft through the crisp air of a beautiful Boston spring day. We started to get hungry. Sister K turns to me and asked if I was in the mood for a delicious Italian sub...well yeah...who wouldn't? She tells me that Monica's Salumeria, which was fairly close to where we were standing at the time, made one of the best Italian sandwiches around. It was indeed close by but it took us quite some time to find it because they had recently moved a couple of shops down from where they use to be located.

Let me tell you that this sandwich was worth the walk. I though it was wonderful! The bread was not too hard or soft. The meats and cheeses were fresh and paired perfectly together. We asked for no lettuce because we don't like lettuce but I insisted on keeping the tomatoes against Sister K's wishes because I love them, even if they are a bit out of season. There was no seating inside or outside the deli so we took our sandwiches back to the Paul Revere Mall and parked ourselves on a stone bench against some old building and ate our sandwiches. We must have really been into our sandwiches because a couple of groups of passer-by-ers came up to us to ask where we got the sandwiches. Yeah it was that good!

After lunch, the sun somehow disappeared from the sky and us thin-blooded West coasters started to get cold. We ducked into Caffe Vittoria to get some warm drinks to bring some color back to our cheeks. We would never survive a winter here I thought to myself. I think that was one of the reasons why my parents moved away from here many years ago. I had on a big coat with layers and a scarf and was still shaking in my boots. I do not like the cold.

But these drinks fixed us right up! What a delicious day that was! I wish I was back on Hanover street now.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

On Finding Peace and Being Thankful

I can hardly believe that it has only been a week since the Boston bombings. For me, this past week has felt like an eternity. I thought that the moment I landed at the local airport that things would get back to normal but it has taken me longer than I had anticipated to sort through my feelings. In the course of this week, I've gone through feelings of fear, helplessness, anger, sadness, anticipation and determination just to name a few. After getting back home last week, I could not focus or think of anything else. It consumed me for days. I could not peel myself away from the news coverage. I was looking for some sort of closure.

Over the weekend, I attended a memorial service for a coworker/friend that had past away last week while I was in Boston. At the service I morned deeply for him and for everyone that was harmed last Monday. I had been holding it in all week. All my tears just flowed out. And when I was done, I was ready to let them go.

I was overjoyed to see my family as I had not seen them since my return. My sister and brother-in-law cooked a Thanksgiving dinner. I gave thanks in April because I had so much to be thankful for.

I bit into this cookie and it was so good that it made me smile and these days I'm looking for any excuse to smile.

I enjoyed one of my parents' amazing home cooked meals!

We celebrated my sister's birthday!

Last night, I went to a Tribute Run for Boston at the Long Beach bike path organized by friend Pam and Monica. Thank you to everyone who attended. Sharing that run with you meant so much to me. It was like taking that last piece of bandage off my once broken heart and battered spirit.

Photo borrowed from friend Pam

Coming back home to loved ones, friends and everyone in my local running community has really helped me find my normal again. Things will never really be the same but they will be better. I will cherish all the moments more than ever that I will get to share with everyone who has touched my life. In my last post, I wrote that I was not ready to write about my Boston experience but that isn't really true because I did write it all down. I wrote in my hotel room the day I got back from the race and the days following. The words have already been written and one day I will post it here.  

Monday, April 22, 2013

Mountain2Beach Marathon 2013 - Training Log

Week of: 5/20
Monday: spin
Tuesday: 6 miles (mile repeats)
Wednesday: spin
Thursday: 4.8 miles
Friday: spin
Saturday: Rest Day!
Sunday: Race Day! 26.2
Needed: --
Total: 37

Week of: 5/13
Monday: spin
Tuesday: 7.5 miles tempo
Wednesday: --
Thursday: 6 miles
Friday: 6 miles
Saturday: 9.5 miles
Sunday: Rest Day!
Needed: 24
Total: 29

Week of: 5/6
Monday: spin
Tuesday: Insanity
Wednesday: 8 miles
Thursday: 5.75 miles
Friday: 5.3 miles
Saturday: 12 miles
Sunday: Rest Day!
Needed: 32
Total: 31.05

Week of: 4/29
Monday: spin
Tuesday: 5 miles (track)
Wednesday: 8 miles
Thursday: spin, Insanity
Friday: spin
Saturday: Rest Day!
Sunday: 20 miles
Needed: 43
Total: 33

Week of: 4/22
Monday: spin, 4 miles
Tuesday: --
Wednesday: 8 miles
Thursday: 4.5 miles
Friday: 5 miles
Saturday: 12 miles
Sunday: Rest Day!
Needed: 35

Total: 33.5

Wednesday, April 17, 2013


I'm not ready to write about Boston yet but I will when I am. Thank you to my family and all my friends that texted/emailed to make sure that I was okay. I am so touched and grateful to have you in my life.

In the meantime, my wonderful friend Pam is putting together a Tribute Run for Boston on Monday April 22 at the Long Beach bike path (board walk) at 6pm. Starting location will be the parking lot between Ocean and Bayshore. Please come and support this cause to raise funds for those affected by the events of April 15th.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

All In

T-minus 3 days until the big day! I'm flying out to Boston tomorrow! I wish my bags were already packed but they are not. I did go out for my final training run today. Nothing left to do now but enjoy the next couple of days. I'm excited to explore Boston. I use to live there a long time ago. It will be interesting to see how things have changed or remained the same. I never imagined that the next time I would be back in town would be to run the Boston Marathon.

Seven-years-old me would not be impressed since seven-years-old me use to hate running. Okay, that is not entirely true. I was a mover and a shaker but not for more than a quarter of a mile at a time. Just enough to make it from one base to the next or from one end of the field to the other. I couldn't stop moving, I just didn't get very far.

When I started running years ago, I never thought that I would ever run more than a 10K. Some years later, I remember a friend at work tried to convince me to run a half marathon...I thought she was nuts! But she lit a fire in me that day that still burns bright to this day. I think that was the day I crossed over to the crazy side where running 2-3 hours on the weekend was considered normal. It isn't normal by the way.

I can't remember when I first learned of the term "BQ". I do remember that at the time I didn't paid much attention to all the chatter about it because to be honest I never thought that I would ever be able to qualify. I attempted to qualify a couple of times but was unsuccessful by a long shot. When they lowered the qualifying time last year or maybe it was two years ago, I remember friend Darren remarking that perhaps when we get older we might be able to finally catch up to the qualifying standards if we kept up our pace. I nodded in agreement.

Then one day it happened and a month ago I got this in the mail. Frankly, I don't care what seven-years-old me thinks because present day me is jumping up and down.

Monday, April 8, 2013

These Are A Few

One week from today, I'm going to be running the Boston Marathon! That's right, the countdown has officially started!

I thought that I would start off this week with a product review post. It's been a really long time since I've done one and you can be sure that I'll be taking all of these items with me to Boston. This is not going to be like one of my regular reviews where I spend an entire post on one item. Instead this is going to be more like a bulletpoint list of  items that I am really loving as of late. Plus, these items have been around and thoroughly reviewed by many others already so no need to beat a dead horse. This list is in no particular order.

1) First up is Nuun's electrolyte tablets. I was introduced to Nuun during my stint as a member of the 2012 So Much Cooler Online Ragnar team in which Nuun was a sponsor. I really like that they are so convenient, portable, easy to use and comes in a lot of flavors. You just pop a tablet into your water bottle and go. You will have to break the tablets in half if you are going to put it in a regular bottle of water. You also want to leave the lid off of your bottle while the tablet dissolves unless you want to be sprayed with Nuun water when you go take your first sip. Obviously, I use these on my runs but I also love having a nice cold bottle of Nuun water with me during spin class or just working out in the gym.

2) Pro Compression socks are another item I was introduced to during the Ragnar stint as they were also a sponsor. Now before you start thinking that I am only writing this post to review sponsor products, you should know that I purchased all these items with my own money. I have just come to really enjoy using them. Anyhow, I am a huge fan of the knee high compression socks. I wear them to run, spin and do crossfit. I also wear them for post race recovery and of course because they come in all sorts of fun colors and are cute as heck. They even have one that matches my neon yellow Hello Kitty shirt. Enough said.

3) I switched over to Asics' Gel Kayano 18 after being a loyal Adidas fan for years. The last update to the Adidas Supernova left something to be desired. It changed so much that it no longer worked for me (read: blisters and other foot issues). After trying a couple of other Adidas models, and getting some nice blisters and foot pains, I realized that I was finally done with them and that it was time to move on. Yeah it's just a shoe but when it's your primary piece of equipment, it's important to get the right one. When is a shoe not just a shoe? When you're at the final last couple of miles and having the right shoes means the difference between running it in and getting a giant blister and having to walk the rest of the way. I am currently using the Gel Kayano 19, an update to the Kayano 18 and I love it even more.

4) Sunscreen! I have to admit that I haven't always been religious about using sunscreen but you live and you learn. If in doubt, just use it. Use it often and daily. If I could go back in time, using more sunscreen would definitely be at the top of my list of things I wish I could have done more of. I love this one from Coppertone. It is a sweat-proof spray with 70+ SPF. This is a must since I run in SoCal, the land of a lot of sunshine. I use this on my body because you can get it on fairly quickly.

5) More sunscreen please! I love this Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Liquid sunblock with 70 SPF. I use this one on my face. I am really particular about facial products. I think that's the primary reason why I wear very little makeup. This sunscreen is more runny than regular sunscreen but it feels really nice when you put it on. Plus, I feel like it doesn't make my face as shiny as some other types of facial suncreen. I love it!

Sunday, April 7, 2013

2013 Hollywood Half Marathon - Race Recap

Date: April 6, 2013
Location: Hollywood, CA
Start: 6:00am
Finish: 1:48:24

This is the map and elevation chart from the race website page. New course this year. They got rid of the hill at the end but this was by no means a fast and flat course.

This is the elevation chart from my Garmin from mile 3 onward (Garmin did not catch the satellite until mile 3). The peak of the course looks like Batman. Speaking of peaks...holy hills, Batman!

Hollywood! Our room had a nice view!

The expo was held at the same place as last year, the Hollywood Hilton. It appeared to be the same size. Parking at the Hilton was pricey. Apparently, it was free at the lot down the hill but I didn't know this until I was already at the entrance of the Hilton lot and did not feel like going back out and down the hill. Laziness wins again.

I had not planned to run this race two years in a row but a couple of friends from work signed up so I thought 'why not'? Two years in a row makes me a legacy runner since this is the race's second year.

This item came in the swag bag and I'm not sure if I'm supposed to use it for not...you know cause I'm not a man.

After checking into our hotel we went for a walk around Hollywood. Always an interesting experience walking up and down Hollywood Blvd.

We had an early dinner at Trastevere. I had a shrimp/stewed tomatoes dish with a side of vegetables. I was not a fan of this place. We all had heartburn after dinner. Don't know if it was from this place or not. Too bad because the service was good.

I did not sleep very well the night before the race. Fortunately the starting line was right outside our hotel so I got to sleep in a little tiny bit. Believe me, it makes a world of difference when the starting time is 6am!

I have to admit that I lined up at the starting line of this race with PR dreams even though I knew in my heart that I was not ready. I guess I wanted to gain some confidence for Boston. I've been putting in a lot of hard work this past month in an attempt to regain some of my fitness back. It always amazes me how quickly one can lose fitness and how slow and difficult it is to gain it back.

Anyhow, I didn't really have a solid plan for this race. All I knew was that I wanted to give it my best effort. I started out at a medium effort but unestimated those hills in the middle of the course.
The peak of the course near the Silver Lake reservior was pretty steep. Short and steep. I pushed as much as I could to get through all the ups and downs but I was pretty much spent by the time I got to mile 10 where the course started to decline. I'm not exactly happy with my time but I am happy with my effort.

Overall, I thought it was a good race. They've made a lot of changes from last year and it was mostly for the better. Great volunteers and the water and Gatorade tasted really good and there was plenty of it. I know that is a weird thing to say but I've been to many races where the water and Gatorade tasted really bad so this was nice. The course itself wasn't too exciting but I always like running on Hollywood Blvd because the streets are wide open and there is a lot of space to run. I wasn't a fan of the hills, maybe because I wasn't physically and mentally prepared for them but they did add some interests to the course. Plus, I love the bling!

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Dress Shopping - Take One

Remember how I said I was going to eventually write about my wedding planning process...well the time has come. Over the course of the next month or so, I will put up one maybe two write-ups each week that will be wedding related. I will continue to update my blog as usual with running related postings as well in case weddings are of no interest to you. I know they were of no interests to me until I had to plan my own. Okay, here we go...

Let's go back to early 2012 or perhaps it was even late 2011, I was randomly at a David's Bridal one day with my sisters helping my mom look for a dress for my other sister's wedding. I wasn't even dress shopping at the time but at the urging of my sisters, I threw on this dress just for fun. I really liked this dress and especially the ruffled neckline. At the time, this dress was a high contender for being "the" dress. When I came back months later and looked at it again, I didn't like it as much and so the search continued.

Last summer was when I officially started dress shopping.

We went back to David's Bridal because for some reason it seemed like a good place to start.

My little niece was not even walking by herself at the time. I remembered being really worried because I really wanted her to be the flower girl at my wedding and wasn't sure if she will be walking on her own by then. Look at those little chubby thighs!

To make a really long story short...I did not have a very good experience at the David's Bridal that day. I remember calling the shop on a Monday for a Saturday appointment and all they had that day was a late afternoon appointment so I took it. I came in that Saturday with my sisters during my scheduled time. Before I go on, I just want to say that I am a patient person most of the time but this day really pissed me off. It was supposed to be a fun day but we waited for almost 30 minutes before a consultant came to greet us. The staff is not very friendly because they always overbook.

Anyhow, after the consultant finally came out to greet us, she led us back to the dressing area and asked us to have a seat...for another 20 minutes before she came back again. She was helping 4 other brides at the same time. WTF! I was really upset by this because if they were already booked up, they should have just told me on the phone when I called that they did not have any openings. I would have gladly came back on another day when I could be properly helped. Instead, they jammed me in a timeslot with 4 other brides to be assisted by one consultant.

Of course this was a formula for diaster because she was so busy that she was not really even paying attention to me the whole time. I needed help because I had no idea what style of dresses would work on me. All she did was go grab an armful of dresses, hung them up in the dressing room and left to go and help the other brides. She wasn't there more than half the time to help me get the dress on or pin it up and if you have ever had to try on wedding dresses you know what I'm talking about. They are not like regular dresses. It's like a puzzle to get it on correctly and tie/button everything up.

After not helping me much during the consultation, the consultant had the nerves to try to pressure me into buying a dress that I thought was just decent. I didn't know any better at the time and almost gave in because I was afraid of having to go through another day like that again. It was 4+ hours of dress shopping hell! Luckily, I decided to sleep on it before making my final decision. Needless to say I never stepped foot back in that place again. Oh and don't make the mistake of giving them your name or info because you will start to get mysterious calls and mail from wedding vendors far and wide. You've been warned.

I'm sure not everyone goes through this with this place but they treated me terrible and I'm glad I didn't spend my money here. So this was the dress that I almost purchased and yes it looks fine but to this day I am so glad that I decided to sleep on it. This wasn't the best start to my planning process but things definitely got better from here on out.