Monthly Archives: January 2011

Swimming With Music

For the past few weeks, I’ve been doing a long swim session each week. For me, that means an hour in the pool of freestyle laps (I don’t know how to swim any other stroke), each time being 2200 meters.

Thus far, I have really enjoyed the solitude during these workouts – quite unusual for someone that can’t even run one mile without music.

Most of the time I’m busy counting laps, which I do by going through the alphabet with each lap (a lap being 25 meters down and 25 meters back). These days, since my San Francisco Giants are the World Champions, I have been associating each letter with a player: A = Andres Torres, B = Buster Posey, C = Cody Ross…you get the idea.

Going from A-Z, or 1300 meters in silence, was never a problem for me. But once the workouts were extended beyond that; i.e., 2200 meters = A-Z + A-R, well, I decided I needed a little more motivation to keep me going.

I’ve wanted to get waterproof headphones for the past year and a half, ever since my friend Sam got these.

But the cost was more than I could justify for an activity that I only did a few times a month.

A few weeks ago, I checked their Web site and found that they were on sale for half the original cost! I’m guessing the reduced price was the result of the redesigned iPod shuffle.

I was so excited to see the sale price that I ordered one immediately! I had also bought the newest iPod shuffle and could now put the old one to use!

To be honest, I never really figured out how to use this older model of the Shuffle (I need buttons!), and hardly ever used it. At least now I could get my money’s worth!

So yesterday morning, I had a little extra jump in my step as I headed to the pool, eager to give my new gadget a try. I had the iPod charged and loaded with my Burn playlist that I had used for Saturday’s half-marathon.

This was going to be an experiment…I had no idea if running music would also be appropriate swimming music. Would up-beat hip hop, rap and pop music translate well in the pool? Or should I have gone with mellow, slower songs?

Once in the pool, I made double sure that the iPod capsule was sealed tight, and then attached it to my goggles.

The cords were too long, so I had to wind them around the goggles to shorten them up. Everything fit well so I pressed play and started off.

I was so excited to be listening to music as I swam! The first song that came on was “Jump Around” by House of Pain (Brian Wilson’s song). The second song was “Uprising” by Muse. The rest of the songs were all about the same tempo. I think it was a little too fast for me. I definitely would like to stay within the same genre, but I think I need slightly slower tempo songs. It took me about 500 meters to fully warm-up and time my breathing right. This is longer than usual for me, and I think the song selections had something to do it.

It was also about this time that I had to abandon the mp3 player altogether. The ear buds kept slipping around out of my ears. Luckily, it came with a bunch of different sized ear buds, so I’ll have to experiment with them to see which size works best for me.

While it’s nice to know that I can swim in silence, it’s also good to have the option of music. Swimming is growing to become my favorite cross-training activity. It leaves me feeling strong and lean, and I know I’m getting a full body workout. Some days, I love it more than running…not every day, but it does have its moments!

PS There’s one thing I still can’t figure out…after I run, no matter the distance, I’m not immediately hungry when I’m done. I can wait a few hours before I have to eat anything (even though I know I shouldn’t). But when it comes to swimming, I am famished after even just one hour. Yesterday, I had lunch at 10 am because I was so hungry, I couldn’t wait to eat! What gives…?!?

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Coyote Hills Half-Marathon

When I woke up on race morning, the last very last thing that I wanted to do was to run a race. For once I had slept up to my alarm and I wanted nothing more than to continue sleeping. If I hadn’t made plans to meet up with friends who were also doing the race, I would likely have skipped it altogether. Truth.

Coyote Hills is in Fremont (as I just learned), which is about 20-minutes away from me. The race didn’t start until 9 am but I knew that the 5/10K had sold out, so I wanted to get there early for parking.

It was foggy and gloomy, normally the kind of weather I LOVE to run in, but I guess I’ve gotten spoiled with the high 60-degree weather we’ve been having. It felt a tad too cold for me (it was in the high 40’s when I left home) so I wore my Lulu Running Resolution LS-T and shorts. Compression shorts, which I think are the ugliest piece of clothing ever invented. They make my legs look like sausages. But my hamstring was acting up last week, so for the sake of self-preservation, I sacrificed wearing cute Lululemon shorts for them. (Be kind when you see the photos.)

While driving over the bridge to the East Bay, I debated downgrading to the 10K. I wasn’t feeling a half. When I got to the race, I lingered from picking up my bib until I met up with Elise and Deanna (they did the 5K). They managed to talk me into sticking with the half.

Since we were there so early, and the race start was delayed a bit, we had a lot of time to chitchat. I finally got to meet Jess (a Daily Mile and Twitter friend) and her boyfriend, and also visited with Ron and his family and friends.

Eventually it was race time. The half-marathon started first, so I said goodbye to everyone and joined the others lined up at the start. I don’t get nervous at races any more, but I was excited for this one because it was my first trail race. I even wore my new trail shoes (don’t worry, this was my second time running in time).

The Start Line was on top of a hill, so we started running downhill on grass. Then we ran on asphalt for a couple of miles, but also crossed this:

And even had to run in a single file like this:


{you can see my pink hat at the back of the line}

I felt so good the first 6 miles. There were rolling hills, but I didn’t even feel them.

Then the half-marathon course split from the 5/10K course and we had to climb a big hill, which was tough but paved, and doable. But then the course turned right onto dirt and grass, and then to a steep incline that I had to hike (yes, I said hike) up. There was no way I could’ve run it, which then meant the downhill on the other side of it was rather steep and rocky. I was afraid I’d slip so I had to take my time coming down. It was on that downhill that I looked up and saw Jess cheering. Judging from the medal around her neck, I guessed she had already finished the 10K. And seeing that medal motivated me for the second half of the race. And I needed it because it was at that moment that I realized we’d have to repeat the first 6 miles.

Yes, I am a dumb-dumb. When they said it was 2 loops, it didn’t register in my head that we were running the same thing twice (don’t ask, the map confused me).

It’s a good thing I really liked the course because it felt like Ground Hog day. But as we ran along the Bay, the sun started to break (and I got overheated), and I thought to myself, “How many people can say they started their day this way?” {sorry, no photos of the scenery, I stopped running with my phone a few months ago.}

The second time around the course was a lot tougher than the first. Even though I stopped at the aid stations for drinks, and ate a Hammer gel at 4.5 and 10 miles, I still got tired. The last 3 miles did me in. I took more walking breaks. My feet hurt and I was tired of running on rocks and gravel.

By this time, the crowd had sparsed out. My mind kept going back to a text conversation I’d had with my cousin Lauren. After an interval workout that didn’t go well, I had texted her and asked, “Tell me why you like sprints.” (She was a collegiate sprinter and hurdler.) She responded with, “Compete! Its only fun when you get to race people and beat them.” Okay, so I wasn’t winning anything here, but I could try and pass as many people as possible. So that’s the game that I played to get me through the last 3 miles.

At the last half mile, I thought our course would turn and follow the 5/10K course, but no, we had to climb that damn hill again…the one I had to hike up and down. Ugh. But somehow I made it…

And crossed the Finish Line at 2:22:02, which I’m pretty happy with for my first trail race.

Half-marathon #9 is in the books and it came with a cool medal…

…and the best post-race treats!

So here’s the Skinny on Brazen Racing:
• They put on FUN races, by far my favorites (this was my 3rd one)! They are very well organized and provide informative communications.
• Race fees are affordable.
• Courses are well-marked.
• Aid stations are stocked with water, energy drink, all the GU’s you could want, bananas, oranges, pretzels, candy, chips, etc.
• Quality shirts in gender-specific sizes.
• Goody bags of stuff that you’ll actually use.

• Free photos, but you have to go through Picasa albums to find yours. The photos aren’t tagged, so wear bright colors and recognize the people who ran around you. Makes it easier to find your own photos.
• And their races have a community feel. After doing a few of them, you start to recognize people from their other races.

If you’re a Bay Area runner, I would high recommend trying out one of their many races. In fact, my next one is in 3 weeks – Bay Breeze Half!

Sunday Dinner

For tonight’s Sunday dinner, I used a recipe from Simply Recipes, one of the food blogs that I follow. Here’s the link to their post of the recipe, but you know how I hate having to click on another link to see the actual recipe, so I’ll copy it here too and add in my commentary:

Quick Beef Stew with Mushrooms and White Beans

Ingredients
4-5 ounces of cremini or button mushrooms, quartered
4-5 ounces some other fresh mushroom, shiitake, oyster, chanterelle, etc.
1 1/2 pounds boneless beef top sirloin steak, cut into 1-inch cubes
2 Tbsp olive oil
Salt
2 medium carrots, cut into 1/4 inch thick slices
1 medium onion, cut lengthwise into thin wedges
2 garlic cloves, sliced thin
1/2 cup dry white or red wine (can sub beef or chicken broth)
16-ounce can small white beans (such as Great Northern, navy, or cannellini), rinsed, drained
14 1/2-ounce can diced tomatoes with garlic and onion, undrained
Chopped parsley for garnish

Directions
1. Put a large skillet over high heat and add all the mushrooms. Shaking the pan from time to time to prevent the mushrooms from sticking, dry sauté them until they being to release their water. Keep cooking until the mushrooms begin to brown. Remove to a bowl and set aside.

I used cremini mushrooms, and regular white mushrooms that I purchased pre-sliced. This is the first time I dry sauteed something. The mushrooms were weird, they kept squeaking as I stirred them around lightly.

2. Add 2 tablespoons olive oil to the skillet and turn the heat down to medium-high. Brown the beef cubes in batches, turning to brown at least two sides of the meat. Remove from skillet, add to the bowl with the mushrooms and sprinkle salt over them.

I didn’t salt them. I almost never add salt to anything that I cook.

3. Add the carrots and sauté 3-4 minutes. Add the onions and cook another 5 minutes, then add the garlic and cook another minute. Add wine, bring to a boil and return the cooked beef and mushrooms to the pan. Continue cooking 3 more minutes.

I followed the timings in this step precisely and it turned out perfectly. I also used beef broth.

4. Stir in the beans and tomatoes. Cook 5 minutes more. Add salt to taste. Serve, garnished with chopped parsley.

Again, didn’t add salt.

Summary
If you can’t already tell, I’m not a cook. At all. So of course, I didn’t have a skillet and just used my frying pan, which was way too small to hold all of the ingredients. Having too much mushrooms compounded the problem. I had to break up the ingredients and essentially cook 2 batches.

It turned out delish (although, this is a relative assessment since I’m usually the only one who can eat my own cooking). Although I would say its not like the kind of beef stew that I’m used to. It doesn’t matter though, I loved it anyway!

PS The thumbnail photo is from the source blog – my cooking does not turn out so pretty.