Monday, January 14, 2013

Race Recap: Allstate 13.1 Half Marathon Los Angeles

My Take on the Race 
(Don't worry, I have also recapped the official details of the race later in this post)
My Time: 1:55:57
The beautiful view from the start line, just before sunrise.
My Experience: I did it!!! I finally came in under 2 hours which has been a long time goal of mine; I definitely am glad I had my Garmin 405 watch on for this race because it really helped me with pacing. It actually was a lot easier than I had thought it would be, probably because I was very diligent about tapering this time and about my pre-race nutrition. I also would have to say that it is partially due to pushing myself more in some of my training runs than I have in the past....and it was worth it! In general I really liked this race and had a great experience. It was a no frills, straightforward, and small race made up of mostly (if not entirely) local runners. The course was mostly flat and beautiful, and I really appreciated that it was by the ocean so that we could breath in that fresh, salty sea air during our run. I  would run this race again in a heartbeat and my dad felt the same way about it. I didn't get to run the race with my Dad since I was really trying to break 2 hours, but I started it with him and I got to see him during the race once I had hit the turn-around point. Even though we didn't run it together, my dad also set a new half marathon PR for himself of 2:13 (although I don't know if this actually counts as a half marathon PR because when he ran a marathon he ran it in under 4 hours which means less than a 2 hour half marathon.......but that was like 25 years ago so maybe it doesn't count?).

The Official Stuff 
Distance: 13.1 miles (half marathon)
Size: Small; 2000 runners.  
Course Description: Relatively flat with beautiful views. Almost entirely along the ocean and Venice Boardwalk. It is a point to point race but they provided shuttles back to the start line from the finish which were plentiful and very convenient. 
Mile Markers/Timing: They had markers at every mile with a board displaying the time since the race started. 
Restrooms & Hydrations stations:  There were port-a-potties at the start and every few miles along the course as well as public restrooms along the beach; I think they had the perfect amount of port-a-potties for this size event. They also had water and gatorade at every mile.
Race Finish/Expo: I didn't really spend much time in the finish village, but there seemed to be lots of free treats as well as a Beer garden. It looked like people were having a lot of fun, but I rushed to the shuttles so that I could get back to our car and stretch. 
Packet Pick-up: I don't think they had a packet mailing option since the race was so small but that's fine. They had packet pick-up on the Friday and Saturday before the race
Parking/transportation: Parking was super convenient. There were public parking lots that were a 5 minute walk from the start line, and the post race shuttle service took us back to the start line and the parking lots. The post race shuttles were plentiful, and I didn't have to wait at all to get on one and head back to our car.
Bonus: Good on course entertainment every couple of miles. There were live taiko drummers and all sorts of different musical performers along the course. 

This is definitely one of my favorite races thus far! Does anyone have any favorite half marathons or suggestions for races to run in the future? I'd love to hear about them in the comments, I'm looking for a new race to get me excited ;)

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Half marathon tomorrow! Tips for the days leading up to a Half Marathon

Life Lately: Sorry I have still been posting relatively sparsely, I am in the process of sending in my grad application right now and that has been consuming most of my time and computer tolerance energy (yes, that's a real thing, and it is also not present in superfluous amounts.....). I am so excited but also so scared to be applying; once the applications are in all I can do is wait, and that is just nerve-wracking for me. So lets move on to another subject......RUNNING.

Running Lately: So I somehow forgot to mention this sooner (perhaps because my dad and I signed up less than a week ago) but we're running Allstate's Los Angeles Half Marathon tomorrow! I am so excited for this run because it should be really pretty and the weather is supposed to be cold but sunny, which I love for running. It is all along the Venice boardwalk and the beach, and if nothing else, it will be a gorgeous way to spend the first few hours of sunday.

My goals: Since this is my 11th or 12th half marathon (I've lost count by now)  I'm kinda over running it just to finish, in fact I have been over that for awhile. I have been trying to break 2 hours in a half for about a year now, so that is my goal tomorrow. That being said I won't go into a spiral of depression if it doesn't happen, I mean I am just grateful that I am able to run, and that I can enjoy running with my favorite person (aka my faja). We probably won't run together for this half since if I want to break 2 hours I have to run just a hair faster than his preferred pace, but we will start together and celebrate together and that's all that counts! I am a little bummed to not have my favorite running buddy with me (who just so happens to also be my big sis from my sorority) since we've run so many amazing half marathons together, but alas, there will be more half marathons in life.

The Taper: Oh lords.........the dreaded taper. I love it and I hate it. It's nice to give my body a rest from running, but my heart and soul are craving it like crazy.
Foam rollin' a boss
I went from running about 5 days a week, to only running 2 days this past week and getting some walks in. The distances of my runs are also decreased in order to allow me to be in top shape for tomorrow's run. I ran 8 miles on tuesday, 6 miles on thursday.....and that's it until tomorrow. It's weird because as restless as I get and as much as I want to run, it's somewhat satisfying knowing that I've got this pent up energy which will (hopefully) help me achieve my pace goal tomorrow. This isn't necessarily part of the taper, but I have been super diligent about foam rolling everyday to aid my muscle and fascia recover, and help prevent injury. Also foam rolling is just fun.

Eating for a Race: I definitely am a huge proponent of carbo loading, but it's not as important for half marathons as it is for marathons. Honestly, for a half marathon, as long as you eat almost entirely carbs the day before the race, you're pretty much set. I have a few key tips for eating before a half marathon that have worked well for me in the past:
- Avoid fiber rich foods the day before the half: Now I know this seems counter intuitive, and normally I wouldn't say this, but any fiber just means added weight and bulk, and all that's gonna do is slow you down on race day.
- Don't over eat, just change the ratios of what you eat: Focus on getting a higher proportion of your calories from carbs than from protein and fats than you usually do. I prefer to avoid fatty foods in general a few days before the race because I have found I just feel better that way.
- Eat simple....Carbohydrates that is: Anything from baked potatoes, mashed potatoes  white rice, conventional pasta, white bread, tamales to chex cereals and pancakes. The key here is to have simple and refined carbohydrates. Normally I would strongly advize against this, as it's not the healthiest way to eat from day to day, but these foods are pure digestible carbs, digestible being the key word. They don't have much fiber to speak of, so they won't weigh you down on race day.
- Eat a banana: I know this doesn't quite line up with the avoiding fiber thing, but one banana won't realy add that much fiber to your system but it WILL provide you with some potassium and other excellent electrolytes that you want to make sure you have in your system come race day.
- Drink lots of Fluids.......all day: This is probably more important than drinking water right before the race. If you are properly hydrated the day BEFORE the half, then all you have to so is maintain that hydration throughout the race and you will minimize your cramping and fatigue.

And that's about all the (faux) running wisdom I have to share with you all about the days leading up to half marathons. I hope found it useful, or at least entertaining, and I will post a race recap soon!

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Rockin' (mu)Shroom Risotto

So this is 100% a recipe running news (although I do have some running updates), I'll save that for another post.

Inspiration: I was watching a recent episode of Bravo's Top Chef where yet another chef failed to make a satisfactory risotto.....surprise, surprise. I mean a good risotto is not the easiest thing to make, but it just takes a little more TLC than a normal rice dish and it is SO much more exciting. I am very picky about risotto, but one of my favorite risottos was actually from a place that isn't even an Italian restaurant. I had a surprisingly delicious vegan mushroom risotto from Lexington Social House (it doesn't come vegan but the chef was accommodating and made it vegan for me), so I decided to go for a mushroom risotto.

Nutrition Note: This risotto is made with whole foods and is a very hearty and filling, but it is light on the protein. If you want you could easily add cooked lentils or white beans at the end of the cooking process for more protein. Most nights, I just make a side salad that has beans involved in order get in that protein when I'm making a grain focused dish such as this.

Rockin' Mushroom Risotto Recipe:
- 1 1/2 cups uncooked arborio rice (risotto rice)
- 1/2 medium yellow onion, diced
- 2 medium shallots, diced
- 2 garlic cloves, minced fine
- 1 lb thinly sliced mushrooms  (this is about 4 cups after being sliced), I used crimini and white button, but whichever type you prefer is fine; oyster would be delicious if you don't mind the added cost
- 1/4 cup dry white wine
- 4 cups low sodium veggie broth, warmed up to a simmer
- 2 tbsp nutritional yeast
- 2 tsp salt
- 2 tsk black pepper
- 1 tsp dried thyme
- 1/4 cup plain, unsweetened soy milk
- 1/4 cup lemon juice
- 4 cups arugula (you can used baby spinach if you prefer)

1. Cook onion and shallots over medium heat in a large, heavy bottomed saucepan until clear and soft. This should be about 5 minutes.
2. Add in the sliced mushrooms and continue to cook until mushrooms have reduced in size slightly. This should be about another 5 minutes.
3.  Clear a little space in the middle of the pan and add in the minced garlic and cook on high heat for until the garlic starts to turn golden, then reduce to medium heat.
4. Add in the arborio rice and mix. Toast the rice for a few minutes until you start to smell and nuttiness or until they start to turn a little golden.
5. Add the white wine and mix until cooked off.
6. Add in all of the spices and herbs and mix thoroughly. 
7. Add in the veggie broth, one cup at a time. Stir the risotto after each pot and reduce the heat so that it is just simmering. Make sure that all of the liquid from one cup is absorbed before adding the next. This is the part that takes the longest and required the most patience. It will probably take around half an hour, and the key is to regularly stir the risotto so that the heat is evenly distributed throughout.
8. Add in the lemon juice and soy milk and stir in.
9. Add in all of the arugula and mix thoroughly. Continue to cook on low heat for at least another 5 minutes so that the the greens are thoroughly wilted. 

Friday, January 4, 2013

Persian Version: Vegan Persian Food (Khoresht eh Gheymeh) & Persian Pop Culture

I have a Confession: I'm persian. You all may or may not have known this, but it is indeed true. I was born in Los Angeles, but both my parents were born in Iran, and I have been brought up with a lot of persian cultural traditions. Los Angeles has a very large and noticeable persian population, and it is definitely true that the "Los Angeles Persian" is a unique and not uncommon type of persian; it may be a stereotype, but stereotypes come from somewhere........

Lilly (aka my persian idol) is on the far right. 
Persian Pop Culture: Anywhoooo, there are a lot of things about persians I find annoying, but in the end I do love being persian and all of the things that come along with it. I have found myself pulled into watching Bravo's "Shahs of Sunset" which in case you don't know is a reality show about "typical" Los Angeles persians. While the show itself is full of drama and pretty entertaining, it is pretty far from an accurate representation of persians in LA. The people on the show are actually a really random bunch of persians for the most part, and they are not representative of a majority of Los Angeles persians. While I do resent the show for some of the stereotypes it perpetuates, I still find my self strangely drawn into watching it. Oh, and I adore Lilly, the newest addition to the cast this season!

Fun Fact: Freddie Mercury, the amazing lead singer of Queen and one of my favorite musicians and performers of all time was Persian. WHAT now?

Vegan Khoresht eh Gheymeh Recipe
Inspiration for this Recipe: Watching all of this persian reality TV has left me seriously craving persian food, but it is hard to find a vegan version of my favorite persian stew which is Khoresht eh Gheymeh. This is a yellow split pea and tomato stew that usually has pieces of veal chuck in it, and is typically served with white basmatti rice. I veganized it by getting rid of the meat, and upping the split pea content to keep it hearty and thick. The key to the stew is patience, it takes only a half hour of active work, but needs to be stewed for a minimun of two hours before being ready to eat.
What the onions should like like JUST before you add
the spices
Nutrition Note: This stew is not only made with whole, plant based foods, but it is also a great balanced source of protein and carbs. It is typically eaten with a side of steamed rice......and as we all know legumes (split peas) + a grain (rice) = a complete(ly delicious) protein. 
- 2 cups diced white onions
- 1 tbsp turmeric
- 1 tbsp salt
- 1 tsp pepper
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp cumin
- 28 oz canned diced tomatoes in their juice
- 3-4 cups water
- 2 cups dry yellow split peas
- 3 dried lemons pierced with a fork a few times (also called limooh amahny, you may need to go to a specialty middle eastern or persian market for these)
- 1/2 tsp saffron water (optional)
- 3-4 tbsp tomato paste
What the stew looks like AFTER 2+ hours. 
1. On medium high heat in a large non-stick pot, sauté onions until golden and softer. This should be about five minutes. You can add water as needed to keep them from sticking.
2. Add all of the spices including the salt and continue to sauté for another five minutes; adding water as needed to keep from sticking.
3. Add in all of the remaining ingredients and stir well. You can use 3 tbsp tomato paste for a slightly less thick stew, or 4 tbsp for a thicker stew. Continue to stir periodically for the next 10 minutes.
4. Once the stew is bubbling, reduce to low heat, put the lid on, and let simmer for a minimum of two hours. 
5. Serve with rice or any other grain of your preference.  I personally like brown basmatti rice, but my dad and brother prefer white basmatti rice. It also goes well with quinoa in my opinion. 
Ready to Eat!