Archive | December, 2014

Reflection on 1 month in the US

27 Dec

I’ve been back in the US for about a month now, and my experience can be best described by this photo (sub Nov. 25 for Dec. 24):
fat barbie christmasFood is everything that’s wrong and right with America. The first weekend I was back I bought this:

lucky charm marshmallowsA giant tub of Lucky Charms marshmallows for $1.83. (Found at Jungle Jim’s International Market outside Cincinnati).

Two months ago I texted my mom “Does Little Caesars still have pretzel crust pizza? Because we need to get it when I’m home.”

And so we did:

little caesars pretzel pizzaAnd it was glorious, although if you’re listening, Little Caesars, it would be 10x better if you substituted ham or bacon for the pepperoni, because the pepperoni completely overpowers the cheese sauce and pretzel crust instead of complementing it like bacon or ham would. Just a suggestion.

I also baked a crap-ton of cookies, but for the first time, did not photograph them. Also for the first time I remembered how much I hated everyone and everything after decorating cookies for hours last year, so I perfected a quick and easy method.

However, I did not learn from my past experiences with cake decorating. I once again used almond milk instead of cream or whole milk in my buttercream icing and it broke:

almond milk buttercreamIt still tasted amazing though, which is really what matters. I think most people would prefer an ugly cake that tastes delicious than a beautiful tasteless creation, right?

I also made peanut butter and chocolate buckeyes, which are notoriously difficult to dip. This year I traded the traditional tooth pick method for the Chinese way:

buckeye chopsticksI knew my mad chopsticks skills would come in handy some day!

I’ve been doing some other stuff while I’ve been home, but eating has taken the cake (tehe). I guess this is why people make New Year’s resolutions…

Cincinnati Thanksgiving Day Race 10K recap

17 Dec

So on Thanksgiving Day (which was somehow almost 3 weeks ago) I ran my second ever 10K race. If you remember from my recent posts, I was really hoping for a sub-hour time. Sadly, that didn’t happen, and I have a whole host of excuses to explain why.

Excuse #1: I got attacked by a dog the day before.

Alright, I’m making it sound worse than it was. On the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, the day after I arrived back in the US, I decided to do a short run around my parents’ neighborhood to make sure my race day kit (American English: outfit) was warm enough (see Excuse #2). I was wearing mountain trekking socks, calf compression sleeves, thermal pants and pug leggings, so my calves were essentially covered in 4 layers. My lungs were burning from the cold (it was about 30 degrees, or -1 C), but my body felt warm enough. As I was running I noticed a man and his boxer puppy jogging toward me. My first thought was “huh, a Steelers sweatshirt, you don’t see too many of those in Bengal territory,” followed shortly by “Ow!” as the puppy playfully jumped up on my leg. The guy kept running, perhaps not even noticing what happened, as did I, as it seemed like a harmless puppy pounce. But as I jogged on I felt a slight pain, and when I finally got home and removed all 4 layers from my leg, I saw a huge (like the size of a grapefruit!) bruise on my calf, along with a cut. I’m still not sure if it was a bite or a scratch — it happened so fast — and I can’t believe either would leave such a big and painful mark. I iced and bandaged it and it felt alright, but I’m still using it as an excuse for my race day performance.

Excuse #2: It was freaking cold.

When I left London at the end of November it was mid-50s (12 C). It was chilly, but not cold. It was actually near-perfect running weather. It wasn’t until the day before I left that I actually wore any of my thermal clothing on a run. The morning of the race it was 30 degrees (-1 C), which is a big difference when you’ve been training in 20 degrees warmer. Even with my thermal layers, gloves, headband and snood, my lungs were frozen.

Excuse #3: London is pancake flat.

I never realized how flat London’s royal parks are until I ran in Cincinnati and Kentucky. The slightest incline kills me. The hills in the race were described as “rolling,” and truly, to anyone experienced in running anywhere besides London, they probably weren’t that bad, but since I did the majority of my training on completely flat roads, I struggled. I even broke my rule and walked up a couple of the bridges.

Excuse #4: My pants kept falling down.

Since I started running a year and a half ago, I have worn the same £2 LA Gear shorts. In the winter I wear them over my leggings since I need the pockets for tissues. They have always served me well. Yet on race day they started falling down after mile 1 and I had to continually pull them up. It’s never happened to me before and hasn’t happened since, so it was a total fluke.

Those are my main excuses. You could also add there were a crapload of people walking and running and the coral system isn’t that great, so even if you line up with your estimated mile time, you still end up dodging walkers. I took this shot right after the start.

cincinnati thanksgiving raceI ended up finishing in 1:02, 2 minutes slower than my goal, but 3 minutes faster than last year. And I got to wear my pugtastic outfit:

race edited(This was the only official race photo in which I don’t look like I’m going to die. The one near the finish line was not pretty!)

There’s always next year to reach my goal, or I should try a 10K race in London where it’s flat and warmer!

Fitbit Charge HR release

8 Dec

I finally had to cave and create a “To Do” list. If you haven’t noticed, I haven’t posted since I’ve been back in the U-S-A, because I haven’t had many free minutes to myself. It’s a challenge trying to balance working from home practically full time, exercising, eating all the food, buying all the things and spending time with family and friends. But they say you make time when something is really important, so since Thursday I’ve been obsessively trying to track down a FitBit Charge HR.

My regular readers may know my obsession with my Fitbit Force. That’s something else I should add to the list of time-eating activities above — trying to hit 10,000 steps everyday when it’s cold outside. The floors of my parents’ house are soon to be as well-worn as my flat’s. I cannot live a day without my fitness tracker, but my Force is on its last legs. It’s been super glued together multiple times. I was excited when Fitbit announced the Force’s replacement, the Charge, and even more excited about the Charge HR. OK, excited is an understatement — I HAD TO HAVE ONE. It has all the functions of my Force, plus continuous heart rate monitoring. I know wrist heart rate monitoring is likely not very accurate, but still, I must know if my heart rate raises and I burn extra calories baking cookies and shoveling snow and other activities that do not require a swinging arm.

My initial excitement over the Charge HR announcement was immediately crushed when I read the release date: early 2015. I am only in the US until early 2015, and I doubt Fitbit’s definition of “early” is the first week of January. So I would either have to wait to buy the Charge HR the next time I’m in the country, have my parents overpay to ship it to me, or overpay for it in the UK. None of those options sounded good. But then rumors online started spreading — stores like Target and Best Buy were making shelf space for the Charge HR, which they likely wouldn’t do around Christmastime unless it was arriving soon. People online would contact their local stores and report back potential launch dates, but nobody got an exact answer. But then on Thursday it happened — Fitbit sent out exclusive emails to those who registered interest on their site, inviting them to purchase the Charge HR before the main 2015 release. I had registered my interest on the website. But I did not receive an email. I watched as more and more people reported their emails with excitement, but I received nothing. Someone mentioned he spoke to a Fitbit rep who said the main launch was still happening in 2015, but a small shipment of Charge HRs were being sent to select retailers soon. I scoured the web trying to find an exact date of arrival or a site that would likely have them in stock. I remember going through this last year when my Force was so backordered I didn’t think I’d receive it before I flew to London. I was just about to start calling my local Best Buy, Target and Wal-Mart, when I checked my email and there it was:

fitbit charge hr emailI guess I wasn’t cool enough to be a part of the initial email batch, but I’m still cool. I wasn’t allowed to use my 15% off coupon for being a Force owner, but I was willing to spend $22.50 more if it meant I could get my Charge HR months early. The email arrived on Friday and I got free overnight shipping, so this was at my doorstep Saturday morning:


That space was intentionally left blank, because MY CHARGE HR DID NOT ARRIVE ON SATURDAY! I started writing this post on Friday with the intention of posting it on Saturday after I got my Fitbit, but it didn’t come. My parents and I ran errands all morning, making sure one of us was always home to greet the FedEx guy. Except my tracking number was still just showing “label created,” which is never a good sign despite being marked Saturday delivery. It wasn’t until Saturday night that the tracking info was updated for a Monday delivery. “Next day” my butt, but good things come to those who wait, right? And so this was on my doorstep this morning:

Fitbit Charge HR prereleaseI immediately charged it up, transferred my data from my Force, and took it out for a run. It wasn’t my best run (a recap about how I’m using the excuse of a dog bite to explain my poor Thanksgiving Day Race performance is forthcoming), but as far as I can tell, the heart rate tracking is pretty good. Here’s the Charge HR (left) next to my beat-up Force:

fitbit charge HR vs forceMy Force served me well over the year, but I’m excited for life with the Charge HR.

And for those of you who don’t care about Fitbits in the slightest, here is a photo of a bah humpug:

bah humpug