Wednesday, December 31, 2014

14 Great Things about 2014

Photo by Cassie Ngo

In no particular order:
  1. I successfully trained for my third marathon and PRed my time.
  2. I read/watched the entire Harry Potter series.
  3. It was a good year for YAF at the movies (Vampire Academy, Divergent, TFIOS, Mockingjay Part 1).
  4. I completed in my first duathlon.
  5. I entered the wonderful world of Veronica Mars.
  6. I learned a ton about intersectional feminism this year. (This was a HUGE part of my year.)
  7. Jolie ran in her first race in January.
  8. I saw Hank Green live and got to say "Good morning, John! It's Friday!" for a Vlogbrothers video.
  9. I had blonde hair. And then purple hair.
  10. I got another tattoo (my marathon one).
  11. We moved out of our condo into a house and I have a kickass office/craft room/library.
  12. Jolie received a leadership/citizenship award at school.
  13. I became PR/Marketing copy editor for Cracked Slate Productions and we're well on our way to getting started on our first series.
  14. I read/finished 46 books this year and ran 448 miles. Possibly my largest numbers ever for both categories.
Photo highlights!

Saturday, December 27, 2014

So you want to be a runner...

I'm not really one for new year's resolutions (because I find that my goals and wishes change throughout the year anyway), but of course, along with everyone else in the universe, I do want to be in better shape. Not to have a "hot bod" or whatever, but to be more fit, to be a better athlete.

Whatever the motive, it's a pretty popular goal every January, right? I used to devour fitness magazines by the dozen, and this is the time of year where every single media outlet puts in their two cents about getting fit. If I had a dollar for every time I saw the phrase "new year, new you," I could probably buy myself a new treadmill.

These days, there are TONS of fitness options out there, but it seems like, almost universally, when people talk about getting fit, they start to follow it up with "I should start running" or something like that. And while I totally applaud that, I also have to fight really hard to resist the urge to start dishing out caveats, because while running CAN be as easy as "Lace up and go," there are some things you'll want to consider first. Running is beautiful in its simplicity and in the fact that humans in general were meant to run - it's already in us to be able to run, unlike skating or pitching or dribbling, which require a lot of practice and drilling before you build up the muscle memory. If you can walk, then you can run. In that sense, it's a GREAT way to get fit. But it's also extremely common to take the universality of running for granted and get started on the wrong foot, so to speak. So this is why I'm here.

Look, I'm not an elite runner. I'm also not a medical expert. I'm really just... a regular person. In fact, I'm a mother with a demanding full-time job, and I've been an overweight, unathletic book nerd my entire life. (Well, I'm still overweight. I'm still a book nerd too.)

But... I do have, among other things, 3 full marathons and 28 half marathons under my belt. I know a TON about being a slow, fat runner with a really busy life, one who has had to start from zero so many times, unremarkable on paper but remarkably passionate about this sport that I participate in. And I'm here to offer you some tips, in case you're thinking about getting into running (or back into running) for the new year.

(Before I begin though, let me issue the usual "check with your physician" warning. Make sure that you can actually do this. If you have medical issues that running would only exacerbate, then maybe you should consider a different activity.)

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Swatches: Smashbox's On the Rocks Photo Op Eye Shadow Luxe Palette

I am SUPER excited to have this, if only because I only had to pay $20 for it instead of $42. But I'm also excited because it's really beautiful and it's overall a really nice palette with tons of shades that I love. It's very sturdy - the pans sit in a plastic insert that actually comes out (as I discovered, to my surprise), so I guess you could put earrings or thin necklaces in it if you wanted to? The top (pictured above) is kind of cushy, and the diamonds are textured and glint rainbow in the light :) It also comes with a little "Get this look" guide.

Here are the names of the shades:

They're printed on a clear plastic insert, which I hate, because I have to remove it every time to use it, but I can't just throw it away either.

As you can see, it's a nice range of colors (earth tones, jewel tones, smoky shades, and some brights thrown in) as well as textures and finishes (matte, shimmer, sparkle, duochrome).

I divided it up into three sections in order to swatch. All swatches were done with my fingers (clean, I promise!) on bare skin.

Earthy tones:

1. Marzipan - matte light beige
2. Totally Nude - matte warm beige
3. Sumatra - matte cool brown
4. Ambient - shimmery orange-bronze
5. Fizz - shimmery champagne pink

6. Midas - shimmery light gold (This one really sucked. I was disappointed.)
7. Cream - shimmery vanilla
8. Sable - matte warm medium brown
9. Zoom - green with a gold shift
10. Roast - dark brown matte with gold sparkles

This is my favorite part of the palette, and not just because of the cute gemstone - I love purples and blues :)

1. Purple mist - metallic blackened purple with a lavender shift
2. Pastel - matte cool pale pink
3. Lilac - metallic blue-based purple
4. Navy - matte navy blue (what it says!)

5. Sapphires - metallic navy
6. Peacock - metallic light turquoise with a gold shift
7. Juniper - slightly shimmery brownish purple
8. Lavender - slightly shimmery lavender (what it says!)

I will probably use this third section the least, not because it's not good, but just because they're the colors I reach for least overall. Usage aside, they are very, very pretty! This section of the palette reminded me MOST of the holidays, especially the last five shades together :)

1. Royal - matte suuuuuper dark eggplant (a little patchy, but fine)
2. Babycakes - shimmery baby peach
3. Snow - matte white (pretty basic)
4. Moonlight - metallic, slightly-glittery white (this one was also a disappointment)
5. Mink - shimmery pale taupey purple (SO pretty, but I wish it was more pigmented)

6. Asteroid - metallic gray 
7. Framboise - metallic, slightly-dark magenta (again, PRETTY, but I wish it was more pigmented)
8. Gypsy - shimmery blackened green (gorgeous!)
9. Smoke - matte dark gray (reminds me of UD's eye pencil of the same name)
10. Cabernet - metallic dark maroon

So, out of the 28 shades, there were only two that I felt were rather unworkable (Midas and Moonlight), but otherwise, the shadows ranged from "pretty good" to "excellent" in terms of texture, blendability, and pigmentation, with the shimmery shades being the most buttery smooth to work with. 

I don't know if I would've considered this palette had it been full price (and had my Ulta coupon not excluded the Naked on the Run palette! *pout*), but I'm really glad I picked it up. It definitely feels luxe, both in terms of eyeshadow quality and in terms of packaging, and I'm looking forward to spending some time getting dolled up for the holidays.


Friday, December 19, 2014

How do you know when you're really a RUNNER?

I'm still basking in the glory of my recent marathon, so this past weekend, as an act of reflection, I went back through all my old blog posts tagged "running." I think it's important to remember your past as it helps shape your future, you know? Sometimes looking back can help you answer questions you have now.

So what did I learn? I learned that I tend to aim high, but I lack the follow-through. I read a lot of sentences that were like, "I didn't train very well" (or at all), or "I didn't do as well as I would've liked," or "I should've done x better." Or "I should've tried harder." I read lots of regret for not pushing myself more. Part of that is me not actually trying hard enough, and part of it is me never thinking anything I do is good enough.

On the other hand, I also read a lot of triumphs and break-throughs, not just in terms of time, but also in terms of mentality - I did stop beating up on myself so much. I started listening to my body more. And especially these past six months, I started focusing more and being more disciplined.

My blog doesn't tell my whole story, and I'm sure my training log could fill in a lot more details, and I looked through my history there too. (I also keep a physical notebook where I just write down the date, the time, and the distance.) It's not surprising that, though I had run more races in 2013 than in 2014 (and ran the same number of races in 2012 as in 2014), I really felt more like a runner this year, especially these last six months, than I ever have before. So what accounted for the difference? What was the change that really made me feel like a runner?

For me, it was not the races themselves, but the all the other runs. I don't have access to the numbers right now, but I can pretty much say that I put in more non-race mileage this year than I have in any other year, even though this was not my first time training for a marathon.

What made me feel like a runner? Running consistently and loving it. I've mentioned many times to friends this year how I've actually grown to LOVE the act of running. Some people only love running once they've stopped running, but I actually feel really happy and childlike when I run. I've been running races for over a decade, but it wasn't until this year that I actually grew to enjoy running and to crave running when I couldn't run. I made running a priority this year because I really, truly learned to embrace it as a passion and really make it a part of my life.

It's not the fact that I've run marathons, and it's definitely not my pace, that makes me a runner. I'm a runner because I run - because I want to run. That's not to say that I never feel tired or that squeezing in a training run during a really busy week doesn't feel like a chore at times - I'm only human after all. But for the most part, I now spend my time wondering not if I'll run, but when, and the idea of skipping a planned run just feels awful to me and I am filled with regret - not out of guilt or self-admonishment, but out of longing. These days, when I can't run (either because I'm busy, or because I'm actually recovering from a run) and I see other runners outside, I actually feel envious!

I'm a runner because I've made running a cherished part of my life. I'm a runner, not because of the races I choose to run, but because I choose to run, period.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Impromptu 5k: The Santa Run

Surprise! Just when I thought I was done racing for 2014, I suddenly felt a burning desire to put on a Santa suit and run a 5k today.

The Santa Run takes place in downtown San Jose, and benefits Christmas in the Park and Downtown ICE (the ice rink). Christmas in the Park has been happening as long as I can remember - there are rides, food, games, animatronic Christmas-themed dioramas, and trees sponsored/decorated by local businesses and groups. (My high school alma mater, which is also in downtown SJ, always had a tree there every year.)

I was itching for a run, and rather than going to my usual trail, I decided to sign up for this 5k, and I brought my daughter and my mother-in-law with me - Jolie's never been to Christmas in the Park, and I figured it was a good time for her to go. (She had a BLAST, by the way.)

So yeah, this is the first time I've ever decided to do a race last minute. I registered on Saturday at packet pick-up, received my race shirt, bib, and Santa costume (complete with pants, jacket, belt, beard, and hat), and was ready to go for the next day.

Let me just say that I am rarely ever up for costuming when I run. I like to be as comfortable as possible, and I don't tend to deviate from my usual running uniform. I've run in a tutu once and hated it. I also never run in a jacket. What possessed me to decide to run in a Santa outfit, I have no idea - I was feeling the holiday spirit, I guess.

It's funny, I couldn't even get the pants to fit. They were cut REALLY oddly, with a very high rise and slim pant legs that would not fit over my athletic thighs, and the entire suit was made of FELT, so there was no stretch. I decided I would wear my normal running outfit but wear the Santa jacket on top of it and also the hat. Also, hell no was I going to run in the beard, although I did try it on just for giggles:

This was also my first time doing an afternoon race - 3pm? Who DOES that? But I figured that, since it was just a 5k, it wouldn't throw me off my game too much. I run that much on my weekday training runs.

So the three of us trekked downtown, and Jolie and my MIL hung out at the park while I went to run my race. There were lots and LOTS of people in Santa attire, and it was a very loose, relaxed atmosphere. I felt kinda dumb GUing before the race, but hey, a fun run is still a run, and runs require fuel.

I didn't have any specific goals aside from coming in under 39:00. (Okay, I guess that IS a specific goal.) I wanted to see if I could run the entire thing straight, since I've spent the last five months running intervals, and I consider it a good test of my own fitness to see how far I can run without stopping.

I made my first mile in about 11:30 (non-stop), and kept going another couple of minutes until I had to stop because I suddenly got a sharp pain in my calf. I tried to walk it off as best I could, and while I was walking, I took the opportunity to re-pin my bib to my shirt and then remove my Santa jacket because I was sweating buckets thanks to the fact that it was 1) long-sleeved and 2) made of FELT, for chrissakes. Yeah, I am never running in a Santa suit ever again. Apparently other people felt the same way, because I saw lots of jackets stuffed into the public trash bins along the sidewalk.

My calf pain abated enough for me to start running again, but it never completely disappeared, so I did take way more walk breaks than I wanted to. To be honest, my calf still hurts right now, a few hours later. (I do not want to hear your "I told you so," okay?) But I made a pretty respectable time - 37:13, which is not a PR, but it's the best time I've run since my PR two years ago. Actually, I didn't run any 5k's at all in 2013, but the two I ran earlier this year were about 43-44 minutes each, so... yeah, a season best? Given all the walking I had to do and how I've only run one mile this entire week (post-marathon), a 12:00 overall pace is pretty awesome. In fact, this was my second fastest 5k time EVER in the history of my running.

Because I am now in my "off-season," I'm only running three days a week, so I've got a couple days to rest up before I run again. So yes, I will listen to my body and take care of my calf now, okay? (It wasn't hurting the entire week before today, I swear.) I'm not sorry I ran this race, but I probably could've picked a better time to try non-stop running. Mea culpa.

Luckily, I had two sweet things waiting for me post-race:

This picture was actually taken pre-race, but whatevs
Okay, NOW, for realsies, I swear... my next race will be the Star Wars Rebel Challenge at Disneyland.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Third time's a charm: California International Marathon race recap

Marathon #3, with a bullet
Everything was beautiful and... okay, some things hurt.

I feel like today's race was fated to go well: it's the 32nd annual CIM, and this year it happened to fall on my birthday - my 32nd birthday. The weather was absolutely perfect (especially considering how last year it was icy, and the year before that, it rained so much that the course was flooded). It's a beautiful day for a PR, yes? 

I knew I was going to PR by default if I met my goal, which was to run a sub-6:00 marathon, to finish within the course limits and record an official time. I know, I know... not a remarkable time by anyone's standards. (Today's winner finished in 2:11, by the way.) But for me, it meant that I would have to stick doggedly to my goal pace, and I've been working super hard for the last five months to make sure that I had it in me.

About to start
The course is a net downhill, which is good for going fast, but it had a LOT of hills. They were all smaller, manageable hills that I could run, but they were occurring every quarter mile or so, and they really start to take a toll on your legs as the miles rack up. We ran completely on pavement, which I'm used to, and there was a LOT of course support, both in terms of spectators and aid stations. Everything was well-organized, from the expo to start-line shuttle buses to the finishers' area. Everything about this race was easy and painless.

Well, except for the race itself, obviously. Well, it was mostly painless, but definitely not easy. Like I said, even though I was running the hills pretty easily for well over the first half, I got tired sooner than I would have liked - I had hoped to stick to my goal pace of 13:00/mile for the first 20 miles and then give myself more time per mile for the last 10k, but after about 18 miles, I decided that I needed to give myself more leeway. I had built up a pretty decent cushion of time, but I didn't KNOW that I would definitely make my goal time until about mile 24.

My quads started doing that twitchy-crampy thing after about 21 or 22 miles, and I couldn't run too much after that, although I could still actually run, which is pretty good. I had managed to stick to my 5/1 interval for about 16 miles and tried to stick to it as best I could for the rest. The last two miles, I was down to doing a 1/1 because my legs were so crampy that I couldn't run much more than a minute at a time. (Yes, I was hydrating plenty.)

Sights along the way
But it kept me going - I kept reminding myself that any amount of running would be better than just walking the rest, and no matter how tired I was, I was still clocking an 11:00 pace for my run portions. Like I said, even though I was feeling really exhausted, I was glad that I could still run even a little bit, because in my last two marathons, I couldn't even walk very well for the last 10k. In fact, at any given point during today's marathon, I felt far better than I did in my other two marathons, so that's something.

So even though I didn't stick to my goal pace as long as I wanted to, I still met my goal time at 5:49:32, which I'm immensely proud of. I started crying as soon as I passed the 26-mile marker, so I'm sure my finish line photo has my face in ugly-cry mode. Even just to finish a marathon, let alone to PR, is very emotionally overwhelming, and to have it happen on my birthday was just icing on the cake. And then checking my messages and emails afterward, I was overwhelmed all over again by all the people who chose to think of me today and who sent me well-wishes for my birthday and/or my run.

It was a really, really good race. All around. I met the friendliest people I've ever met at a race, EVER, and the spectators were out in force. It was amazing. I'm so glad that I was here today, at this race, this year, because (as you may recall) I was supposed to run this one last year and had to drop out due to my injury. It's fate, right? Everything happens for a reason.

Special shout-outs go to: my two CIM partners in crime, Becca and Jeannie; Allison, who came out to cheer me on just after mile 9; Steve, my strength coach, who's been torturing working with me for the last month or so to get me ready; and my ever-patient family who has been putting up with me disappearing for hours every week to work out. And also to EVERYONE who believed in me and sent me good vibes for today.

Also, special kudos to the old dude with the white tutu (a spectator) who set up a boombox and was bopping along to "Shake It Off." I even think he had JUST that song on repeat, because I saw him at two different points along the course, and it was "Shake It Off" both times, and my friends saw him too, and they heard "Shake It Off" too. Haters gonna hate hate hate hate hate, right?

Next on deck: STAR WARS REBEL CHALLENGE in DISNEYLAND in mid-January. I've got a nice long break to recuperate. I'm looking forward to not running very much until I start this marathon-training process all over again in February, for Vancouver (WA) in June. (Ugh. Somewhere during the last six miles, I was whining to myself in my head, like, "WHHYYYYY did I sign up to do this again in six months???? WHY???")


Tshirt. Women got light blue, men got navy blue

Finishers' area
The Three Musketeers :)