Sunday, September 30, 2012

Review: Saucony Ignite LT Bra

If you do not wear sports bras, or are one of those awesome ladies who can get away with wearing a $15 sports bra from Target or wherever, this review is not for you. (I mean, you can read it; it just probably won't be all that informative.)

A few weeks back I broke one of my own cardinal rules about buying running gear (there really aren't that many, actually) and bought a sports bra online that I had not tried on IRL. (That means "in real life," btw. I learned that from teenagers when I was a teacher.) But you know how it is. It's late, you're chilling with a glass of red, reading the interwebs, and what do you spy but the hot-looking Saucony Ignite LT sports bra, which TOTALLY matches those shorts that you had to get in black and pink, because it was the only color they had. (Don't ask me why I've started caring about that stuff lately. I can't explain it.)

I didn't expect that it would be as epically awesome as my Moving Comfort Alexis ones (which are basically perfect in every way), but I thought, hey, it's Saucony, and they generally make pretty decent stuff. Plus it was on sale (maybe $25ish instead of the usually $35ish?), so done.

Honestly, I should have known better as soon as I put it on & did a little experimental bouncing. I should've taken it right off, packaged it back up, and returned it. But my optimism got the best of me, so I thought, "I'll just head out on a short little run with it. Maybe it'll be fine."

No. No, it was very very very NOT fine at all. It is not, as the site advertises, "built for speed" unless you are the type of lady for whom a sports bra is really just a formality anyway. (Or your speed is walking.) I felt like it was barely there at all, and while there are maybe items in life where this is desirable, a running bra is not one of them for gals who sport C cups.

This girl has significantly smaller boobs than me, but it gives you an idea of how the higher neckline looks.
So, having cut the tags off and sweated it all up, I relegated this (admittedly attractive) bra to my collection of medium-impact ones I wear to karate. (Even medium-impact is probably kind of generous, but karate typically doesn't involve a ton of rapid bouncing up and down, so it's not really that big of a deal.) I will say that I'm a fan of the high-cut neckline, something I wish more companies would add. In general I prefer a sports bra that fits more like a midriff / crop top or somewhere between a bra and a tank. (This is the one complaint I have about my MC bras--for all that they lock shit down like none other, they are kind of skimpy-looking.)

So. If you like the colors & the high neckline & can get away with running in whatever, maybe this bra is for you. But it is NOT a functional running bra for anyone with an even remotely large chest.

Friday, September 28, 2012

The Silver Lining

Today is Friday, and I haven't run since an easy five on Tuesday evening.

On Wednesday night I strained my right hamstring at karate (while gently stretching, just so we're clear about where this injury falls on the coolness spectrum), and have been unable to jog even a few strides down the hallway without a pretty significant amount of pain ever since. I'm walking a little funny, too. Not full-on limping, but enough that I can tell the difference.

If you've never had one, hamstring injuries are teh suck. You always seem to get them for stupid reasons, they're incredibly easy to aggravate, and they take forever to heal. I will be the first to admit that with the exception of ab stuff & push-ups (which we do regularly at karate), I've been somewhat derelict about strength work as of late, so in a way I feel like I kind of can't complain.

Going on my 3rd day of no running, you might think I'm turning into a crazy, anxious wreck over here the way I did a couple of weekends ago when I got 27 miles behind, but for whatever reason, I feel surprisingly chill and calm about it. I think it's probably because I truly cannot do anything about it except leave it alone and let it heal. It's not a matter of getting up earlier, or planning ahead better, or prioritizing differently, which is the kind of failure that tends to set of my mental pity parties. Also, it's not like it's a stress fracture or something like that that's going to interrupt my training for weeks on end. It's just a stupid little minor injury that's just bad enough that I can't run through it, the kind of thing that happens to the best of us (not that I'm counting myself among the best of us) from time to time for no good reason.

Instead, I've found myself making the best of it by using the time I would've been running to catch up on all kinds of things that often tend to get neglected. Blogging, for example. Cleaning the bathroom. Organizing my closest. A few other projects I keep talking up and not doing anything about. And that's actually been really nice.

Which is not to say I'm not *really* looking forward to the damn thing getting better so I can get back to business; I am not trying to have another ten mile week, here. But it's good to find that I won't necessarily fall completely apart emotionally if I can't run for a few days in any & all situations.

I am also reminded lately that, even on my least inspiring weeks, I still have the time, money, support, health, strength, & circumstances to train for & run a marathon. Which probably puts me around the top 5% of the US population in terms of how fortunate I am. And that is an important thing to remember.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

CIM Week 4 of 14: Hellz to the Yeah

This week in "Breathtaking Places to Run in San Francisco": Ocean Beach

On Sunday I needed to run 16-17 miles. Considering that I didn't run my scheduled 15 last Sunday, I decided that 16 was plenty to be getting on with.

Some things I have learned about myself over the years are that 1) I don't like running in the morning, 2) I hate long runs, and 3) I am really, REALLY good at procrastinating. Basically what this means is that I often have to trick or goad myself into getting the long runs done. One of the best tricks I know is committing to run with another person at a specific time, so I made a date to run with Kimra that morning around 7:30. (This was also awesome because I've been reading her blog for a while now but never actually met her. So yay!)

Despite the fact that I was at a ridiculous dinner party Saturday night & didn't get in bed until 12:30, I woke up at 7 feeling surprisingly alert and rested. Which lasted right up until I left the house & started jogging towards Kimra's place. My legs felt totally dead and incapable of holding anything like good form. After a rather trying 9:49 first mile, I was not certain how I was going to make it to 16, but I was pretty sure I could get to Kimra's plus the eight or so that she was planning on. So I figured I'd just focus on that for a while. (Another good trick I've learned for when I feel shitty at the start of a run is to say, Why don't you just run x miles & we'll re-evaluate then. By the time I get to mile x, I usually feel a lot better & have no problem finishing the rest.)

We ran through Golden Gate Park down to Ocean Beach, chatting about the intricacies of San Francisco real estate & tenant law & the challenges of international racing. (She's running the Berlin Marathon this Sunday.) This was one of those runs where the miles just seemed to tick away without my even noticing. Every time my Garmin beeped, I was like, "Already? Didn't we just finish a mile?" By the time we were on our way back through the park uphill, my legs had warmed up and I was feeling as if I could've run for miles and miles. I couldn't believe I was already over halfway done.

When Kimra hit her eight I dropped her off at a Muni stop and headed back towards home, throwing in one more short loop of the east end of the park. My legs still felt good, so I decided to experiment with a few miles at what I am kinda-sorta-vaguely trying to halfway convince myself should be my marathon goal pace.

While yes, it took effort, and I was kind of tired, I was still pretty surprised at how (relatively) easy it was to hold that pace. I'm not 100% positive I could've done it for 10 more miles, but it still felt really good to get a feel for that pace on tired(ish) legs.

Sunday's long run topped off a fantastic week, running wise:

Grand Total: 40.8 miles

    * 35.3 easy
    * 4 tempo
    * 1.5 speed

Monday: 5 easy. This run was not planned, but after not getting to run the previous Friday, Saturday, or Sunday, I really needed to get a few in for the sake of the safety & well-being of those around me my mental health.

Tuesday: Track workout - 6 x 400m repeats w/ 1:40 jog recovery (5.5 including warm up & cool down). A little embarrassing, perhaps, but done, consistent, and even slightly under pace.

Wednesday: Went to another karate testing, but was kind of feeling sick at my stomach so didn't actually participate. So for all intents & purposes this ended up being a rest day.

Thursday: 6.3 easy. Five on the schedule, but I felt good & wanted to take a crack at my usual loop to the Panhandle & back. Again, not feeling epically trashed after = a good run.

Friday: 2 wu + 2 @ 7:30, 2:00 jog recovery, 2 @ 7:30 + 1.8 cd = 8 total. Given how I've been feeling lately, I was just happy to get all the miles in & hit the right paces. No, those 7:30s don't feel as easy as they should yet, but they didn't kill me either, and my legs held up through the whole run & I didn't feel like death after, so win.

Saturday: Five easy scheduled, but my hip flexor was feeling a bit tweaky & I really didn't want to risk aggravating it before my long run. Since I'd banked an unscheduled easy five on Monday, I called this a fair trade.

Sunday: 16 long.

And week 5 is already moving right along. I wasn't sore on Monday despite Sunday being the farthest I've run since CIM '11, but my lower legs have been kind of achey, so I'm trying to just be kind to them & not demand too much as I'm getting back into "serious" (for me) mileage, outside of running & karate.

Monday, September 24, 2012

The One Where I Use Google Image Search (And Embarrass Myself At The Track)

...But, y'know. In a fun, light-hearted way.

My new dynamic stretches. Just kidding, this is what you get when you google "lighthearted."

It's a little less fresh now, so I can be lighthearted about it.

I doubt I will ever be what I think of as a real endurance runner, ie someone who revels in long runs, pulls 15+ miles multiple times a week, races in the 18-20-26+ range semi-regularly, etc. The truth is I kind of feel like a poser when I do, and honestly if I do these things even a little bit good by any standard, I'm pretty proud of myself. I started out as a sprinter, still love track workouts, and run 5Ks & 10Ks as my "A" races fairly often. When I don't knock the long runs out of the park, I can always console myself with the fact that I keep up a pretty darn respectable schedule of speed workouts.

Well--kept up, that is. To wit:

April track workout: 4 x 1.5 miles @ 10K pace - BOOM. Done.

September track workout: 2 x 1.5 miles @ 10K pace - Uuuuuuggggghhhhh.......

April track workout: 5 x 1 mile @ 8K pace - Nothing but win.

September track workout: 1 mile @ 10K pace + 2 x 800 @ 5K pace + 1 mile @ 10K pace - This suuuuuucks.

April track workout: 12 x 400m @ 1:30 each, 1:00 recovery - OWNED IT.

September track workout: 6 x 400m @ 1:40 each, 1:40 recovery - I think I'm about to throw up.

I'm over trying to figure out how I backslid so far, so fast, even after keeping up a reasonable number of miles in July. It doesn't matter. All that matters now is that when I look at my assigned track workouts now, I've learned to ignore the voice in my head going, "Phhhhhbbbbttt! Kid stuff!" and instead tell myself, "Why don't you just start with what's written & see how that goes before you get too hoity-toity about it."

This is what 'hoity toity' gets you.

Seriously. Although I did have a better track workout this week than I have been in terms of how my legs felt during & after, by the 5th of those 6 four hundreds, I really was legitimately worried about barfing on the track. (This is kind of a trend with me lately.)

Le Splits:

    1 - 1:32
    2 - 1:35
    3 - 1:35
    4 - 1:35
    5 - 1:34
    6 - 1:35

I may not be as fast as I was earlier this year, but at least I've still got consistency going for me.

I also have to keep reminding myself that this is marathon training, after all, which is fundamentally different from my usual mode in that the main focus is on keeping up a brisk-but-not-stupid pace over several hours (I think this is usually what people mean by "strength") and not 'speed' in the sense of intervals.

On the awesome side of things, I ran the entire thing (warm-up, cool down, & all) in a NEUTRAL SHOE with no ill effects:

Bonus points if you can name the shoe without doing an image search for 'brooks shoe neutral.'

I probably will have more to say about this later, but just know it is a BIG. FREAKING. DEAL.

In closing, I leave you with this picture of a man in a hamburger bed.

This picture is pure awesome, because it involves both a) a delicious thing I had for dinner, and b) a place that (as you may have guessed from this post) I have not been spending near enough time lately.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

CIM Week 3 of 14: Just One of Those Weeks

You have no idea how many sappy relationship quotes come up if you google the phrase 'move on.' Lord.
Just to clarify, Week 3 for me was LAST week - 9/10-9/16. I waited a few days to post it because it started out really, really dark & whiny & negative, and if there is one thing I've learned in my adult life it's that strong feelings can make regrettable actions seem TOTALLY legit at the time. And let me tell you, I have done you a great, great service by revising this one a bit first. You're welcome.

In general, I'm not a super emotional person and have a pretty easy time staying on an even keel, but this last weekend has really, really tested me on that. Here's how the week was supposed to go:

    Monday: karate + strength work.

    Tuesday: Track workout - 1.5 wu + 1600m @ 10K pace + 2 x 800 @ 5K pace + 1.5 cd.

    Wednesday: karate + strength work.

    Thursday: 6 miles easy.

    Friday: Tempo run - 1.5 wu + 2 @ 8:14/mile + 1@ 7:29/mile + 1.5 cd.

    Saturday: 5 miles easy.

    Sunday: 15 long.

Here's how it actually went:

    Monday: karate + strength work.

    Tuesday: 1.5 wu + 1600m @ 10K pace + 2 x 800 @ 5K pace + 1.5 cd.

    Wednesday: karate + strength work. Testing, so no class for the rest of us.

    Thursday: 6 easy. 4 easy. Do you ever have those days where you set out to run a distance you have run like a billion times before in your life and your body spontaneously forgets how to do it? No idea why, but my legs were absolutely dead from the outset. Four miles is really the shortest distance I ever run, but for a while I was really doubting I would make it to two before turning around. Not good for my self-confidence.

    Friday: 1.5 wu + 2 @ 8:14/mile + 1@ 7:29/mile + 1.5 cd. Some dear friends of mine were getting married Saturday, and the consequence of my dutifully getting in my runs and cross-training pretty much unfailingly for a solid two weeks was realizing as I was leaving work Friday that I hadn't figured out what I was wearing. At this point I had about two usable hours left in my day & I spent them shopping for something vaguely presentable to wear to the wedding. It was 10 by the time I got home. I've run at that hour in SF on a weekend night before, & the experience was unpleasant enough that I just couldn't muster the enthusiasm. "I'll just do this one tomorrow instead of the easy five," I told myself, clearly without giving any thought whatsoever to the next day's agenda.

    Saturday: 5 easy 1.5 wu + 2 @ 8:14/mile + 1@ 7:29/mile + 1.5 cd. Crazily prepare for wedding. Did I mention Don & I were bar tending? We were bar tending (which was great fun), so there was prep work for that in addition to the usual wedding preparation instead of running. I could sort of emotionally cope with that except that a little part of me kept saying, "If you'd really wanted to run, if it had really been a priority, you could've gotten up super early & done it then." Which is completely true. So that sucked.

    Sunday: 15 long. If you're ever asked to bar tend at a late afternoon / evening / night event, make note of the following. First, you might think you'd end up drinking a lot if you were behind the bar all night, but it turns out that you're actually too busy to drink more than a moderate amount. Second, because you're behind the bar and not near food, you may find yourself going many hours without eating. By the time I realized my mistake (say, 1 am), it was too late. It turns out yogurt & granola + half a turkey sandwich + even a very reasonable amount of cocktails / wine / champagne = a very, very, VERY unhappy Sunday morning. Physically, for obvious reasons, and emotionally because I'd been working so hard to get those runs in, day in and day out, and there I was about to go from 12 miles behind for the week to 27. It took me about six hours to fully accept that, no, no running was going to happen today and I was doing well to keep solid food down by dinner time.

So I finished the week with a whopping 10.75 miles. Ouch.

A particular strength of mine is doing some real analysis when something doesn't go the way I plan. I try to go back and dissect exactly what happened, and why, and what the consequences are, and how I can mitigate them, and how I can prevent the same thing from happening again.

It may shock (SHOCK!) you to know that this can also be a problem when it goes on for too long. This is something I've had to work at a lot in my adult life -- at a certain point, you've done all the processing that can possibly be constructive in any way and you just have to freaking let it go. It's a thing. It happened. It's done. You can't change it. Move on.

Here's the conversation that played in my head for days afterward:

Irrational brain: But, but, BUT! But MARATHON! And long runs! And how lame I am, and how much I suck!

Rational brain: Let. It. Go. Do better next week.

[Repeat x a bajillion]

So I've been getting there.

Monday is normally my rest day, but since I skipped 3 days of running including a couple of big ones, and we were going to a party that night and not karate, I really wanted to get a short run in beforehand. But I left work late, and traffic sucked, and by the time I got home I just didn't think there was any way I could fit it in.

Friends, this was just about as much I could take, emotionally. Thankfully Don came home soon after that and listened to me blubber on and on about my running problems and what a lazy slob I felt like and how there was just never enough time for anything. And his response was more or less, "I think it will be in the best interest of everyone's well-being and enjoyment if you go for a short run and come late to the party."

Seriously, at that moment I could have wept for joy.

Instead, I ran five miles, then went to a party where everyone kept asking me if I had a good run and admired how serious and disciplined I was, the irony of which did not escape me and almost made me snarf wine.

Is there a moral here? I don't really know. All I really know, in fact, is that I've been trying for five days now to make this post even remotely coherent. I'm not sure how much I've succeeded or failed, but I DO know I really just can't stand looking at it in the "drafts" folder anymore, and Week 4 will be over before you know it, so here you go. I hope your week was better than mine. ;)

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

It Slices!! It Dices!!

Let's talk about text books for a moment.

Remember those days, when you would hoof it over to the campus book store in September or January, hold your nose, & hand over your credit card in exchange for the privilege of hauling home 50 pounds and $500 worth of paper and cardboard? Or, alternatively, scouring the internet/campus paper for used but serviceable versions of the same in hopes of saving yourself $100 or so?

You may have also had the unfortunate experience of arranging to buy used off a friend the five-and-a-half-pound Calc book going for $160 new, only to find at the beginning of the semester that a new edition has been released and you will now have the privilege of paying nearly $200 for that book alone.

This particular situation used to piss me off to no end. Just what, you may rightly ask, makes edition 712 so much better than edition 711?








You know what this is textbook publishing industry code for? "Hey peeps! The market is completely glutted with the thousands of perfectly serviceable calculus textbooks we sold two years ago, so no one is buying new ones. Brooks Cole gotta get paid, son! So here's essentially the same book covering the exact same content with seven new pictures and a new cover slapped onto it. Enjoy!"

When it comes to some fields of study, I get why new versions need to be released every couple of years. Technology, for instance. Some of the sciences. Modern history. But guys, basic calculus hasn't changed significantly in half a millennium. That's kind of how basic math works. I can see updating a book's look every ten years or so, maybe (I mean, I don't want a math book with that weird seventies font all over it) and using that opportunity to say "You know, I bet we can streamline this chapter a little" or "People are teaching this content more in this order lately" or whatever. But dudes. Releasing a new version every two years in a field where the content does not change is just a little too blatant in the "squeeze every nickel" department.

Here's the other hard thing about textbooks in subjects like calculus. Because the material has been exactly the same for hundreds and hundreds of years, and hundreds and hundreds of books on the subject have been written by hundreds and hundreds of people, textbook companies are left with precious little ground upon which to compete with each other. I mean, it's not like you can be all, "ooooOOOOoooh, we added this extra-special topic that no other book has!" Because if it's part of calculus, it's in all the other books already.

And that's what leads them to advertising the rockin' CD-ROM, the super-essential section on study skills, and all the OMG AWESOME NEW COLORS & PICTURES!!1!

So what does all that have to do with running? Mainly because that's the way I feel every time I see an ad for a new model of running shoe. Take a couple of weeks ago, for example, when I spotted a post from Brooks inviting me to "get a sneak peak at the Adrenaline 13!"

Um, what? Didn't the Adrenaline 12 just come out? I haven't even worn my pair long enough to review it. I still have 11's in the rotation, for gods' sakes!

It's shoe model whiplash, people.

Still, I read on. So what's new and exciting for the Adrenaline 13?


Also something called "Flextra." And don't forget the OMG AWESOME NEW COLORS!!

It sounds like all of this (except the new colors) is supposed to help make the shoe more flexible. Which...I don't know. If you are someone who is concerned with how flexible your running shoes are, I don't see you looking to Adrenalines to fit that bill. (It is a stability shoe, after all.) I'm currently trying to work my way out of stability shoes & into more flexible ones, so in order to keep from wrecking my feet, I'm mostly alternating between the solid, stable Adrenalines & my more flexible Saucony Mirages & Newton Motions. And as far as I understand, the heel drop is going to remain pretty significant, and given that, frankly I don't much see the point of making the shoe more flexible.

I mean, I could be wrong. I'm willing to give it a try. But I cringe a little bit every time I hear some new high-tech-sounding buzz word come out of a shoe company.

Back when Brooks announced plans to scrap the Launch, Becki at The Middle Miles wrote this paragraph:

Don't get me wrong, I understand that the industry has to progress. I'm really glad that our choices today are a little more modern than the Onitsuka Tiger, Nike Daybreak, and Brooks Chariot. But I've also worked as an engineer, and I've seen the effects of overengineering a product. The beauty of the Launch is its simplicity. Not every shoe needs a laundry list of just needs to work.

That pretty much sums up my feelings on the subject of running shoes (and Calculus textbooks, for that matter). It's hard for me to really believe that changes on this level really make all that much of a difference. Instead, what it actually does is cause those of us who adored the shoe just the way it was to gnash our teeth and rent our garments when we find out we can't get it anymore and are back at square one. Like Becki, I agree that our favorite models should be updated when there have been significant improvements in our understanding of running mechanics or in the quality of available materials. But do we really need a new Brooks Adrenaline every year or two? Is the nascent 12, which I've barely had a chance to break in properly, already that woefully outdated? Is it too much to ask that you give me the opportunity to really fall in love with a shoe and build a long-term relationship with it before you yank it out of my hands and say, "Here, this one is mostly the same, except for how it's not. Have that!"

I wish I were less cynical about these types of things, but as with the Calculus books, yanking a perfectly comfortable, perfectly functional shoe in order to replace it with a mostly-the-same-but-flashier-and-pricier version with a bunch of new high-tech-sounding pseudo-jargon attached to it kind of smells like a company prioritizing making a buck over meeting the needs of its customers. Sigh.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

CIM Week 2 of 14: How Did It Take Me Four Years To Do This?!?

*Gorgeous* bridge shot courtesy of Kristin. :)
For my long run last Sunday (which I was nervous about, given how last week's attempted long run worked out), Kristin took me across the Golden Gate Bridge for the first time. This was notable as I've lived in fair SF for four years now and have never been up there on foot (WHAT!?!). Basically I've been like, "Oh, I should really run the bridge sometime," but because I can do it more or less whenever, I've never *actually* done it. Our plan was to start at the Ferry Building & get in 13-14, which, Kristin informed me, would most likely take us over the bridge.

I'd brought a jacket because I'm used to it being sort of windy and miserable out on the waterfront, but as soon as I got off the BART at Embarcadero Station, it was immediately clear that I wouldn't be needing it. What a gorgeous, perfect day! It was sixties, sunny, & with a light breeze most of the way, which afforded us fantastic views like the one above.

By the time we were on our way back to the Ferry Building, it did start to feel pretty warm which made the last few miles kind of tough. I just kept telling myself that it was no worse than the last few miles of a marathon, and really, that's half the point of long runs, right?

Sure, I was tired and had a few achey spots in my legs & feet, but overall I felt HEAPS better than I have on my shorter runs recently. I think I'm probably finally really recovered from Santa Rosa and also gradually getting back into somewhat decent shape. My calf-Achilles complex (that is a fancy term I learned from this blog - perhaps somewhat more scientific than 'calf-chilles') seems to be getting stronger, by which I mean it (they?) isn't (aren't?) screaming bloody murder at me every time by mile 2. Today my legs actually felt pretty good the whole way, which is a big, BIG improvement.

In a relative sense, this was a big week for me -- my highest mileage week since May. Sure, it was a little depressing to realize that, but hey! Progress.

Grand Total: 38

    * 31 easy 
    * 5 tempo
    * 2 speed/intervals

Monday: Karate + strength work

Tuesday: Strength work + speed -- 2 wu + 2 x (1200m @ 10K pace + 400m easy) + 2 cd = 6. My first track workout in something like six weeks. It went about as well as you might expect.

Wednesday: Karate + strength work

Thursday: Strength work + 5 easy. This was the first run I've had in a while that didn't outright suck. It wasn't great, but say 6 out of 10.

Friday: Tempo -- 2 wu + 2 x (10:00 @ 7:56 + 10:00 @ 8:14) + 1 cd = 8. This run was weird in ways I can't explain very well. The whole thing felt hard, but at the same time I had a hard time not going too fast. Also, the difference in terms of effort between 7:56 & 8:14 seemed almost negligible. I think my averages were in the right spots, but I was pretty inconsistent the whole time. Not a pleasant run, but I got it done.

Saturday: 5 easy. If most of my runs lately have been 4 out of 10, and the easy 5 on Thursday was 6 out of 10, this one was maybe a 5.5. Once again, I was just glad to have it in the books.

Sunday: 14 easy.

Next week should be more or less the same in terms of mileage--more speed, more tempo, a few easy runs, & a 15 miler on Sunday.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

There Is Nothing Funny About Skinny Margaritas

Look, I made it skinny. Har har har.
Friends, I can stay silent no longer. Finding myself confronted with Skinny Margaritas is not something I often have to worry about too much because I do not generally frequent the types of establishments that serve such abominations. But I've seen it making the rounds enough lately that I feel like it would be shirking my civic duty as a defender of good & proper cocktails not to say something.

I am going to pick on some people on the internet briefly, and I am going to justify it in the following ways:

    1) If you put something dumb/wrong on the internet, it's fair game for picking on. No one made you do it and it's not my fault you didn't fact-check.

    2) I've chosen my targets more or less at random.

    3) I am not going to "out" anyone I pick on because I am not a complete asshole.

I googled "skinny margarita" and clicked on one of the first results. The first paragraph read something like "According to [some bartender], your average margarita contains about 330 calories, and maybe more if you use store-bought mix."

I face-palmed myself like seven times, just reading that one sentence, the reasons for which I will explain later on. But let us keep reading.

The author then shares a few tips for making your big ol' fatty margarita more diet-friendly. Namely:

    1) Using fresh-squeezed lime juice, because it's low-calorie and tastes better.

    2) Ditching those unnecessary sugary "modifiers" (ie, triple sec). Remember, you can always add a squeeze of fresh orange juice! :D

    3) Use agave nectar instead of simple syrup - it's 20% fewer calories! :D

    4) Better yet, get rid of the sugar altogether by using--wait for it--SPLENDA (I shit you not) instead.

It took a lot of self-discipline at this point to continue reading and not hurl my laptop against the wall.

Now we come to the author's "Skinny Margarita" recipe itself:

  • 2 ounces tequila
  • 1.5 ounces fresh lime juice
  • 1 ounce agave nectar

220 calories, folks! Whew! That extra 110 was *definitely* not worth walking, like, a whole MILE over. Or switch the agave out for Splenda for a very demur 140 calorie cocktail & save yourself nearly two miles.

She goes on to suggest other margarita recipes which are in fact not margaritas at all. I can't even talk about those.

Then there's this mess, which I don't even have the words for:

In response, another dieter was all like, "Yeah, I replaced the Diet 7-Up with lime-flavored tonic water, cuz it just feels like fewer calories that way." I am not making this up.

This is probably what hell is like. I mean, not like the Southern Baptist (I can say that because I was raised one), eternal damnation, lake-of-fire hell, but like the Dante-esque, highly-philosophical-and-ironic hell. Fourth circle, maybe. But I suppose that's what a 74 calorie cocktail gets you.

In light of all that, I want to share with you some facts about margaritas and cocktails in general.

1) Cocktails involve booze. Booze has calories. I can't deal with people who act shocked about the number of calories in a cocktail for the same reasons I can't deal with people who write exposés about how fast food is bad for you. FREAKING DUH.

2) If you're going to drink a cocktail, effing own it and DRINK A COCKTAIL. If a few hundred calories mean that much to you, have a lime and soda. Or split one with some friends. Or SOMETHING that doesn't cause your bartender to die a little inside because you just effing walked into a bar and asked for a Skinny Margarita. (Even if it's on the menu, I guarantee you this will still happen.)

3) If you ever come to my house and I offer you a cocktail and you ask me to put Splenda in it, you are dead to me. Just go.

4) While there are some variations on the recipe for a basic margarita, it has three basic ingredients: a) tequila, b) orange liqueur, & c) lime juice. A dash of agave nectar (usually substituted for part of the orange liqueur) to cut the tartness of the lime is acceptable. A freaking OUNCE (as per our lady's "skinny" recipe) is not. If it's boozy lime-flavored Kool-Aid you want, then own it and don't order a margarita. I've been to plenty of bars & restaurants where they add in or substitute all kinds of weird & interesting things & call it some kind of [blank] margarita, and many of them have been very interesting and tasty. But the fact is that if you don't use tequila, orange liqueur, & lime juice, or if you start adding extra stuff in, it's not a margarita anymore. So eff this "lose-the-triple-sec-splash-of-fresh-orange-juice" business right in the ear.

5) Let's examine the caloric content of a properly made margarita. Here's how we make them at home:

  • 2 ounces tequila. Tequila has ~65 calories per ounce, so we're at about 130 right there.
  • 1 ounce lime juice. Lime juice is basically water with a very small amount of acid and sugar, so maybe ~7 calories per ounce.
  • .75 ounce triple sec (or, lately, Creole Shrubb). An ounce of triple sec has ~125 calories, so say 94.
  • .25 ounce agave nectar. ~80 per ounce, so say 20.

(For the sake of completeness, here - mix all ingredients together in a shaker with a goodly number of ice cubes, shake until you can't feel your hands, and double strain into a rocks glass over fresh ice.)

This makes for a DELICIOUS cocktail and runs about 282 calories, only about 60 more than the "skinny" recipe above. Allow me to gently point out that if 60 calories are worth a shitty cocktail to you, then you're probably better off skipping the adult beverages altogether & having a delicious, low-calorie mocktail. (I'm not being sarcastic here - they do exist and I make them semi-regularly.)

6) Skinny business aside, note that "nasty disgusting pre-mixed vaguely lime-flavored syrup" is not listed in the ingredients above. It is not the fault of margaritas that you're putting that shit in your drinks. The number of calories in sugar syrup has nothing to do with margaritas at all.

Just for kicks, I looked up the ingredients for a popular brand of margarita mix. Ahem: "Water, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Citric Acid, Sodium Citrate, Sodium Benzoate, Cellulose Gum, Gum Acacia, Polysorbate 60, Natural Flavors, Glycerol Ester of Wood Rosin, Sodium Metabisulfate, Yellow 5, Blue 1." Is that what you want in your drink? Really? It's like a billion calories/grams of sugar/ooky chemicals AND it tastes shitty. It's a lose-lose, people.

Articles & recipes like this bug me because I think they speak to a larger issue re: our dysfunction with food as a society (or at least large segments of it). I am all about trying to eat and cook healthier most of the time, but personally I think this is best done by using fresh, unprocessed ingredients as much as possible, asking yourself whether the four pounds of cheese / butter / oil / etc. in the original recipe is really necessary (sometimes they are!), and having smaller portions of delicious, well-made food. I am NOT about trying to make food as artificially low-calorie as possible by using abominations like low-fat cheese and artificial sweeteners just so I can eat nine servings of it & not feel bad. And when I have a craving for something rich and decadent (like a cocktail, fancy dessert, or authentic Southern cooking), I believe in doing one of two things: 1) having and enjoying it in all its glory, or 2) owning that the calories are more important to me at that particular point in time & having something else.

And don't even get me started on this:

For a cocktail nerd, this is nothing short of blasphemy. A friend emailed the link to me earlier this week with the subject line "Angela-baiting." The first part of my response is not fit for polite conversation. The second part was, "Kill it with fire."

And now if you'll excuse me, I have to go make a real, genuine, non-food-dysfunctioned big-girl cocktail.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

CIM Week 1 of 14: New Beginnings

Fall has always felt like a time for new beginnings. You'd think that distinction would belong to spring, but I think I've spent too much of my life in academia to see it any other way. Part of it probably also comes from being a football fan. (Sorry, but I just can't get excited about baseball or basketball.) To me, summer always feel like a respite, a calm, lazy season in which to recharge and rejuvenate before the electric buzz of September sets in. Once the corduroys hit the shelf, butternut squash shows up at my local farmers' market, and bloggers start humping pumpkins like it's going out of style, suddenly it feels like all kinds of exciting things are afoot.

(I mock because I love. I am kind of a big pumpkin fan myself. ;-D )

There are other new beginnings going on for me, not the least of which is my transition into a new regular-person job. Obviously this comes with a lot of pros, but one of the biggest ones for me is a predictable schedule and not having to work on evenings & weekends. Which has all kinds of benefits.

I also have a new training plan, which for me always feels a little like wiping the slate clean. For whatever reason, I seem to plan my running years in four-month trimesters: January - April, May - August, and September - December. Not intentionally or for any specific reason; it just seems to work out that way. This year it was because I'd signed up for a race at the end of August, and didn't really have the bandwidth to think much beyond that. But the pieces are falling into place. I have a very sassy, very autumnal fall half marathon coming up in October:

Healdsburg Half Marathon

And in case you've been living under a rock and haven't seen a bajillion emails / facebook posts / tweets about it, this race just sold out...

Cal International Marathon

So you can probably guess what the deal is with that. :)


I'm not quite ready to call this "Week 1," although I guess technically it kind of is. While I didn't really race Santa Rosa, I still worked pretty hard & ran farther than I had in a month & was pretty sore on Monday and Tuesday, so I've spent this week recovering with mostly short, easy runs.

Grand Total: 24, all easy (er...sort of)

Monday: Rest / hang out with my college roommate, who was in town for a few days.

Tuesday: 4 miles easy. Mostly I figured I'd just start running & see how far I could get before I stopped feeling easy. Which happened after about a mile. My hamstrings and glutes felt sooo tight, and my calves/Achilles were back to that threatening-to-cramp business they were pulling last week. I just kept it nice & slow, though, & figured I'd get to 4 if I could & then call it good.

Wednesday: karate + strength work. Actually felt pretty good, which has been unusual for karate as of late.

Thursday: some unspecified number of easy miles Without going into unnecessarily melodramatic details, the universe thwarted my plans and I instead ended up driving 50 extra miles & also cooking tailgate snacks until one in the morning. Ah well.

Friday: 4 miles easy. Friday was kind of awesome. I knew I'd be leaving work early to tailgate (GO STANFORD!!) & wouldn't have any running time Friday evening, so I attempted a lunch break run for the first time ever. I knew there were some lovely (paved) trails near & around my new office, so I brought my running clothes & shower things & went exploring. And wow! Gorgeous! Next time I will have to snap some pics to share. In the mean time, please enjoy these shots of the area from the internet:.

Full disclosure, the physical experience of this run totally blew. I felt the way I did in January after taking a month off post-CIM -- completely out of shape and utterly miserable by mile 2. However, I am willing to overlook that & focus on the victory that is figuring out the logistics of a mid-workday run. Between the shower & the beautiful routes, my workplace seems sort of made for runners. Once I'm feeling normal again, I plan to take full advantage of this. :)

Saturday: 6.25 easy. My usual loop to the Panhandle & back. Made it through, but I'm playing fast & loose with the word "easy" here for sure.

Sunday: 13-14 long 10 easy. And by easy, I mean ass-hard. Like really. I'm thinking back over the entirety of my running career and I cannot remember running a tougher ten miles, ever. By mile two I was absolutely miserable and really, really wanted to quit. Also at mile three. And four. And six. And you get the idea. GOD, was it miserable.

Things got a little easier around 7-8ish. Cardiovascularly (is that a word?) I was doing fine & could've made it three more miles no problem, but since my legs had been dead at mile two and every time I stopped at a stoplight or water fountain they felt feverish & throbbing with pain pretty much everywhere below the knee, I decided that the end of my ten-mile loop was probably the smart place to stop. Ugh. For the rest of the night I felt like I'd just run 20 miles.

This is the toughest week of running I've had in a long, long time. I'm clearly still recovering from basically not running in August "racing" on Sunday, but I'm if nothing else an optimist. I've had sucky weeks before and I'll have them again. I fully expect that I'll be feeling normal again in a couple of weeks.

In the mean time, I am reveling in the energy that comes with a new season, by which I mean both fall (even though it doesn't feel all that different yet here in SF) as well as marathon season. As recently as July, I couldn't even think about running another, but now, eight months removed from the experience, I'm actually pretty excited about number 2. Like, really, REALLY excited. (Here's hoping I can keep that attitude up all the way through November!)

Part of the reason I'm so excited about CIM is because so many other people I know are also running it, and I really enjoyed the feeling of working hard and training for something at the same time as so many other friends & nearby bloggers last year. (I'm kind of sappy that way.)

Post-race brunch in Sac-town. I love these ladies. :)

It was partly because of that that CIM was such a great way to end the year last year, and I expect that this year will be equally epic.

Are you running / volunteering / spectating at CIM this year? Will I see you there?

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Chip Away; Chip Away.

I had a track workout today, my first in nearly six weeks. On tap was the following:

  • 2 miles easy warm-up
  • Form drills / dynamic warm-up
  • 2 x (1200m @ 7:09 + 400m recovery)
  • 2 miles easy cool down

    Phhhbbbbbttt, said the runner brain dismissively, and with good reason. My Aug. 4th 10K PR pace was 7:09, so running .75 miles, twice, with a jog break, should be nothing. Hell, in a 10K or half marathon cycle, a typical track workout was four or five 1200s at a 6:45 pace. As soon as I saw the workout, I was pre-emptively adding an additional 1200m in my mind, because otherwise I wouldn't feel like I'd really done anything, obvs.

    What I neglected to take into consideration was the fact that I have not had a single good run (with the exception of Santa Rosa, which I suppose you could call good, for certain definitions of the word) since that Aug. 4 PR race. They've pretty much all run the gambit from vaguely unpleasant to utterly miserable. Seriously; I feel like I've lost two years of fitness in three weeks.

    The fact that there was a soccer game going on at Kezar Stadium and I was banished to the concrete upper track was a bad omen (it usually is - I hate running on that thing). Add to that the demoralizing headwind on the backstretch and the chilly sideways drizzle pelting GG Park, and you can probably understand why I had a bad feeling from the moment I turned on my Garmin.

    (Fact: It is a bad sign when you really, really want a rest break .4 miles into your 2 mile warm-up.)

    Less than halfway into that first 1200, I knew there would be no third interval. Not that I couldn't have physically forced myself through one; I just knew there was nothing to be gained from it given that the workout was to only do two. Also, my lower legs (which are clearly still out of shape) were killing me.

    I was glad when the intervals were over, though the cool down (can you really call it a "cool down" when you're doubting your ability to finish?) still sucked.

    Still, I have faith. I have faith that, somewhere beneath all these slow, demoralizing, bitterly painful miles, my mojo is waiting for me to dig it out. I just have to keep chipping away.


    On the way home from the track I hit the Safeway, and we made this for dinner:

    Kahakai Kitchen

    FYI, this isn't my picture. I'm shit at food pictures. Click for the recipe.

    I'd never made it before but it sounded tasty & reasonably healthy, and it didn't disappoint! Highly recommend for a reasonably quick & easy dinner. We made it with shrimp, but you could very easily leave the shrimp out for a hearty veggie meal. (There was barely any shrimp in it anyway, given how small the ones I got from Safeway were.) Pairs well with a nice Chardonnay. I had it with this one, which, in case you forgot, I won at this race. ;) #notsohumblebrag

    Hope your (short) week is off to a great start! :D

  • Sunday, September 2, 2012

    Week in Review: Aug 20 - 26

    Running ShoesThis is my weekly training journal. Including it in the blog gives me a little extra accountability in the mileage department & helps me stick to my schedule. :)

    This post is really just for record keeping purposes. I think I've pretty much said all there is to say about this week elsewhere. Nothing much to see here...

    Grand Total: 26

      * 8.4 easy
      * 3 HM pace
      * 1.5 speed/intervals
      * 13.1 race

    Tuesday: 2 wu + 6 x (400m @ 10K pace + 400m jog) + 1 easy. Lots of pain in the feet. These 10K pace repeats had me wondering how on earth I'd raced at this pace (faster, even) for six miles just two and a half weeks before. I felt terrible.

    Thursday: 2 wu + 3 @ HM pace + 1 easy. This sucked as well. I ran my first "HM pace" mile in 7:50 and wanted to die. At that point, I seriously considered giving away my bib for Santa Rosa. The other two were easier, though, so I begrudgingly decided to stick with it & just do whatever I could.

    I'd planned to run a few shake-out miles on either Friday or Saturday, but given how terrible & exhausted I'd felt this week & how bad my feet had been hurting, I decided that more miles, any amount, really, could only do harm at this point & I was better off resting & doing myself the favor of at least going into this thing with fresh legs.

    Sunday: .9 wu + 13.1 race = 14. Santa Rosa Half Marathon. It was what it was.

    (Again, sorry this is such a lame post. Just wanted to get the numbers & some notes down. I promise to be more scintillating next week.)