Tag Archives: running

When in Philadelphia…eat all of the vegan food

Greetings, folks! We returned yesterday from our eastern seaboard adventure. We decided to keep our summer vacation cheap and simple by visiting friends in Philadelphia. Driving the 13 hours and sleeping on our friends’ trundle bed proved to be the most fiscally efficient way to get out of town for a few days, and it made for quite the vegan adventure. Can I just say that I loved Pennsylvania way more than I anticipated? Largely this is due to the complete lack of research I did (I am a control freak and I plan our vacation itineraries to a T–but since we were visiting friends, I relinquished my inner control freak and got to do this crazy thing called “going with the flow”). The small amount of research I did do before we embarked on our journey was to scout out some restaurants along the way where we could pick up some filling vegan fare. Man oh man, did I luck out.

I didn’t take as many photos as I normally do on vacation, but what I lack in pictures I will try to make up for in vivid descriptions of the sumptuous fare I indulged in. Let’s start from the beginning: I packed a lot of vegan snacks for the road. Bananas, clementines, pumpkin clusters, cashews, and clif bars, oh my! Unfortunately that was where the healthy eating began and ended. I indulged in so much fatty delicious food that I fear it will take me a month to burn off all those excess calories. Point in case, I nearly croaked during my treadmill run today after my week of splurging.


Drew Carey would have you believe that Cleveland rocks, and while I can’t say definitively that it doesn’t, it was definitely the low point of our trip. We arrived in Cleveland at about 11:30 pm eastern time. We intended on waking up around 7 so we could make it to Cleveland Heights to grab breakfast at one of the few restaurants in the area that offers vegan breakfast substitutions, Tommy’s, but 7 turned into 8 and we didn’t hit the road til 9. By the time our not-so-trusty GPS navigated us to Cleveland Heights, it was already 9:30, and we didn’t exactly have time to linger over breakfast. We wanted to check out the Cleveland Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, but breakfast took longer than we’d anticipated so we didn’t get to spend near enough time in the museum. I’d go back just to do the museum again, but there didn’t seem to be much else in town to warrant a second trip.

Tofu scramble with fruit and dry wheat toast at Tommy’s

The tofu scramble was okay but the broccoli was a little on the (monstrously) large side. It was a good, hearty breakfast before the second leg of our journey, though.

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame entrance. I don’t know what the plaque below the guitar said, but the building is sort of reminiscent of the Louvre, no?

The line for tickets was crazy long and we sped through the museum like it was our job. We picked up some collectibles on our way out (a shot glass for him, a pint glass for me) and were back on the road by noon.


I expected Philly to be dingy and gross, thanks to It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. In fact, it wasn’t (at least, Center City wasn’t). The best part is how vegan-friendly this city is. Even the most carnivorous of restaurants has at least one vegan option, for the most part. I’m always surprised by that as I hail from a very un-vegan friendly suburb of Chicago. We arrived around 6:30 pm and immediately set out to one of our friends’ favorite restaurants, Wrap Shack. I ordered the vegan volcano on a spinach wrap (not pictured, due to my excitement and ravishing hunger) and DAMN was it delicious. Black bean hummus is apparently a thing, and a delicious thing at that. We shared a pitcher of Yuengling, which might not be a vegan beer, but I’m less anal about that. We needed a drink and we wanted to have an authentic ole time in Pennsylvania.

We wound up at several bars that night and drank all of the beer in sight. Center City at night on a Saturday is just lovely and we had a blast.

We ended up at a bar called BAR (insert hipster joke about how it’s so cool that you’ve probably never heard of it) where “pickleback” shots are the specialty. I was too chicken to try one but it’s just a shot of whiskey chased by a shot of pickle juice. Our more courageous friends tried it and said it was delicious.

Sunday was my birthday and we spent it at a Phillies game, followed by a trip to a few bars and brew pubs. Monday, both of our friends were working so we spent the hot-as-balls day in Old City checking out all the historical sights, including the Liberty Bell and Ben Franklin’s grave. But first! We went to Green Eggs Cafe, where I had the most delicious tofu scramble to date (not pictured) which was served with rosemary potatoes. I would go back to Philadelphia just for those potatoes. No joke.

We made a pitstop at an all-vegan pizzeria after touring Old City, which was kind of sketchy but hit the spot.

Daiya and seitan pepperoni pizza

Before leaving Tuesday morning, we stopped at Greens Eggs Cafe again and I had some delicious vegan french toast that rivals that of Herbivore in San Francisco.

This came with non-dairy whipped cream and strawberry deliciousness. (This one isn’t served with rosemary potatoes, so we shared an order, obviously.)

Gettysburg and Pittsburgh

We decided to stay in Pittsburgh on the way back to attend a Pirates vs. Cubs game. I don’t know if I’ve mentioned it, but my boyfriend’s life goal is to tour every ball park in America. Every city we go to, we either attend a game or a ballpark tour if the team is traveling. We had great seats in left field, three rows up, and a home run was caught four people down in our row. So, I was even on TV! How’s that for exciting?

Before Pittsburgh, we stopped in Gettysburg for about an hour and toured the battlefield. It was interesting and I’m glad we made it there.

We didn’t have time for vegan food pit stops in Pittsburgh, aside from some game time food…

Don’t let the name fool you: these are just fries seasoned with Old Bay. We first discovered Old Bay seasoned food in Philly and apparently, it travels as far west as Pittsburgh. They serve the fries with a cheesey sauce that I obviously didn’t eat. I think I need to buy some Old Bay!

While we didn’t have a proper meal, we did hang out at a couple of bars after the game. Penn Pilsner is pretty delicious, I found out, and Iron City isn’t so much. As we were driving back to our hotel, we somehow ended up at a casino (my first time) and apparently, I’m pretty good at Roulette. We each decided to play with just $20 and we won $30. I said I’d never go to a casino but somehow, after a few drinks, I was convinced. When in Rome…

And that was that. Sweet home Chicago was ours for the taking again at around 4 pm yesterday, and I went back to work today. So much good food, so much great beer, and so much fun with friends. We can’t wait to travel again. It was a whirlwind!

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ideal running conditions

If I’ve learned anything during this short foray into running, it’s that my body and mind depend on a certain set of conditions to be met before and during my run. Those precise conditions are something I’m still trying to nail down.

I had a wonderful 3.15 mile run on a nearby trail this weekend. It felt effortless and smooth. I took a few very short walking breaks but only because there are a few very steep hills on the trail and I didn’t want to expend all my energy climbing them: the breaks weren’t a necessity due to fatigue or breathlessness, a fact I’m proud of. I’ve been anxious to get back on that trail, and I did so today after work. This run felt laborious, difficult, and I was absolutely exhausted. I only completed 2.46 miles and I took a few extra walking breaks that I didn’t take on Sunday (but I did complete a mental and physical challenge: climb one of the steeper hills).

Last week I ate a lot of processed junk and drank a lot of beer, so this week I’ve been paying special attention to my diet: clean eating, lots of fruits and veggies, no beer. I thought this would help my run today, but it didn’t. I started to retrace my every motion from Sunday. What made that run different?

On Sunday, the weather conditions were perfect. It was about 80 sunny degrees during my mid-morning run. About an hour previous, I’d downed two cups of coffee so I was probably still feeling a caffeine buzz. Let’s not forget that it was the weekend so I’d slept a delightfully long weekend sleep. Perhaps most importantly, I hadn’t spent 2 hours in the car and 8 hours working prior to the run.

Fast-forward to today: it was cloudy, humid, and buggy. I had spent 2 hours in the car and 8 hours working before my run. And, though I’ve been trying to eat cleanly, I did eat a clif bar around 1:30 (which was the last time I ate before my run) and my body could have been experiencing a sugar crash by the time I went for my run at 5.

I’m a very calculated person and I refuse to accept that one day, I can run 3 miles effortlessly and three days later, I struggle just to get through the first mile. I’d like to get a discussion going, hopefully from both the running novice and the running extraordinaire: what are your ideal running conditions in relation to diet, drink, time of day, weather conditions, mood, etc.? How do you get through the difficult runs, if you have them? Am I the only one that experiences such inconsistency?

On Sunday, I thought I could easily blast through a 5k and potentially shoot for an eventual (in a year or two) half-marathon. Today, I don’t even know if I could get through a 5k in under 50 minutes. Are these simply the growing pains of the young runner?

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me vs. me

Some days my brain conspires against me in ways I don’t quite understand. Yesterday, the massive heat wave that has been hovering over the midwest offered a slight reprieve. It was 80 glorious degrees and I never thought I’d say it, but 80 degrees is downright pleasant when your body is fighting to acclimate to 100+.

I decided to celebrate by going for a run outside on a trail near my parents’ house. I haven’t been on this trail in a few years because, well, I’ve never been much of a runner in the first place. Also, they found a body not far from the trail a couple of years back and my mother tried to convince me to never run on a trail (or visit a forest preserve) ever again (always the fear monger, that one is). Judging by how busy the trail was yesterday with bikers, walkers, and joggers, I’m going to venture to say the trail itself isn’t that unsafe.

I digress. My body has really accustomed itself to the treadmill and now I’m fighting to break the habit by introducing more challenging landscapes. To my delight, I handled it with the gracefulness of a gazelle (not really, but bear with me). I was able to crank out over 3 miles and it felt great. I felt like I was running on a cloud. This was my first time running outside that I didn’t feel like a giant failure. I vowed to repeat this today. That didn’t happen for two reasons (or three, depending on how you look at it):

1: I went for a walk during my lunch break and the flats I was wearing totally deceived me and cut up my heels very painfully, making it difficult to walk in shoes

2: it started to rain during my commute home, even though weather.com CLEARLY stated that there was only a 10% chance of showers, and…

3(ish): after the first drop of rain, I gave myself the permission to skip my run even though I knew the rain would pass.I do this a lot…grant myself permission I don’t deserve. And then that is usually followed by eating more than I know I should because I get into this mindset that it doesn’t matter anyway (which is a bad mindset to have).

I guess the only point I have to convey today is that I’m still here and I’m still struggling, but I’m owning up to my failures and keeping on track the best I can. I’ve been so sleepy and lethargic lately–moreso than usual–so it’s been incredibly easy to cut myself slack even when I know I don’t deserve it. I’m trying to find a motivating factor that I can use as a weapon against myself when sitting on the couch and eating cookies sounds better than putting forth effort to be a better and brighter me. I haven’t really found it yet, but I’m searching.

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run, sweat, drink beer

I’m down 17 pounds. I’ve finally (FINALLY!) run 3.1 miles straight through without a walking break in sight. I’ve been sweating my ass off both in the gym and in my car, whose lousy A/C decided to crap out during the biggest heat wave of…ever, as far as I’m concerned. And now I have two glorious days off (the weekend before the weekend!) and I’m going to drink some beer and get all self-congratulatory about meeting my short-term goals while still trying to keep myself in check so as not to deter myself from continuing on to the next leg of this journey: the long-term goals.

Happy Fourth!

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c25k update

I’ve been cooking new meals but I have neglected to take any decent photos, so this post will not be about that. But for the record, I made vegan stroganoff this week (very tasty!), and caribbean coconut rice w/ chickpeas and broccoli (this was tasty but I sort of ruined it by adding a touch too much cayenne pepper–my mouth was on fire! I also don’t think I’m a big fan of ginger and this called for a whole tbsp of ground ginger). I used my Upton’s Naturals chorizo seitan for the MOST delicious tofu scramble I’ve cooked to date. I wish I had photos! It was to die for. It was the talk of work when I brought my leftovers for breakfast. I love when my coworkers are intrigued by my meals. They are always telling me how delicious my food looks and smells, and they’re always shocked to find out the ingredients. One of my coworkers even told me I’ve inspired her to include more veggies into her meals. I love that! 🙂

I’m chugging along with the c25k program. I decided to abandon the regimen and go it alone. I finally “graduated” week 5, finally running 20 minutes straight. I’ve really, really slowed my pace, which I’m okay with. Speed and time will come later. Right now, I’m really just trying to bump up my endurance. Being able to run for 20 minutes was a huge accomplishment for me, even if my pace is barely a step above a brisk walk. I’m going to try to add a couple minutes to each run until I get to 30 minutes. Then I’ll start bumping up my speed by a tenth of a MPH until I get back up to my original pace. I will get there. I will not give up. (However, I only ran twice this week and only worked out three times total. My boss let us leave an hour and a half early yesterday and I decided to go home and relax rather than go to the gym…and then I ate way too much food and called it a day.) I’m taking my run outside today for the first time. I’m anticipating crashing and burning. It’s much easier on a treadmill. We’ll see how it goes. I’m lucky I live in the great-freakin’-plains and I won’t be dealing with any inclines. Just flat terrain here in Illinois.

We’re leaving for San Francisco on April 21. For anyone who’s been: what restaurants do you suggest for vegans? I plan on doing some research but I thought I’d mention it here in case anyone has any brilliant suggestions.

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feel the burn

I’m beginning to think my fancy new running shoes are causing more grief than good. The reason I bought them was because of some mild discomfort in my ankles and knees when running–it seemed obvious to me that this was due to poor running shoes and I needed an upgrade. So I bought running shoes that are full of good support (I can feel it, really!), but today I experienced a common little side effect: shin splints. Burning, awful shin splints. I have avoided them up until now, but now my workouts are upping the ante and I’m running for more prolonged periods.

It seems the longer I run at one time, the worse my shins feel. And it doesn’t really go away during the walking recovery. In fact, I’d say it’s worse during my recovery walks. I almost gave up on my workout entirely today, but decided the only option was to tough through it. By the end of my workout, the pain was markedly lessened–either that, or the pain had a numbing effect on my stupid little legs. I have yet to decide.

Today was three running periods of five minutes each. Wednesday will be two running periods of eight minutes. Friday is the make-or-break day: 20 straight minutes. I thought my biggest issue was my breathing–because I normally don’t feel much pain, fatigue, or discomfort in my legs at all, it’s really just the breathing that trips me up. Now that the breathing is more under control, I have the shin splints to tackle. It’s always something! Can’t I just have a good workout that leaves me feeling good and accomplished? It seems I always have some ailment to complain about.

I wonder if I should give my old shoes a go and see if that cures the problem. I’d rather feel mild knee and ankle discomfort than the shins-on-fire feeling I battled today.

If you have any suggestions or home remedy tips, I’m all ears.

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I’ve got to say that I was discouraged today, all day, because I knew run 3 of Week 4 was knocking on my door. Do I enjoy working out on a Friday after work? No. Do I enjoy running when I know it’s hard and it hurts? No. But am I keeping up with it? Yes, somehow, I am.

I am slightly ashamed to admit that I googled “when does running get easier?” today, hoping I could find some tips or some inspiration. And I did. There’s a discussion here and I have to say this comment really, really made me smile:

It depends on your goals.

If you’re running strictly for fitness, once you get to 3-4 runs per week, 3+ miles each, it really becomes pleasant.

If you’re training to race, the only easy day was yesterday.

I just really love that. That really resonates with me. Until I get to the 3 miles, it’s going to be hard work every single workout.  But I am pleased to say that today, the last workout of Week 4, I passed with (in my opinion) flying colors. I did not have to adjust my speed to run slower during the second half of the workout. I did not have to stop and walk in the middle of the last five running minutes. I really, really tried hard to focus on my breathing. And my heart rate never exceeded 180 until the last five minutes, when it got to 190. For the first two runs, it didn’t get past 175. This is a huge improvement from maxing out recently around 190-195 after the first and second periods of running in my last few workouts.

What this boils down to is I am going to attempt Week 5 next week instead of repeating Week 4, giving myself permission to step back if I feel I need to. This is huge!

That’s really all I have to report. My run left me energized. I’m glad it’s the weekend. I’m hosting some friends tomorrow and I’m going to make some delish vegan schtuff. Oh, and I’m drinking a beer. Friday beers are the best kind. 🙂

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couch to 5k plateau

I had my second run of Week 4 today. Contrary to what should be happening, things are getting harder, not easier. I find myself just barely getting through each workout, sheer exhaustion afterwards, with only an even more difficult workout the next time to look forward to.

I think the terminology “couch to 5k” is a little bit misleading. The first couple of weeks were pretty easy, I felt like the program was easing me into a more active lifestyle, but then all of a sudden, things jumped up big time. I went from running 1.5 minute and 3 minute intervals with lots of walking to running 3 and 5 minute intervals with virtually no recovery walking time. Next week, I’ll have to run 20 minutes straight. Whoa, slow down there. I think I need more time!

I’d be lying if I said I didn’t consider quitting around the halfway mark of each workout. And I don’t mean quitting that workout on that particular day…I mean quitting the program entirely. I get tired, physically exhausted, cranky, and the voice in my head starts preparing for failure–even encouraging it! I keep telling myself I’m just not a runner. I’m just not cut out for this.

It’s not unlike a Nic Cage movie.

Most of the time, things are okay. But some of the time, things are so awful, you can’t freakin’ believe it.

I think I’ve gone from the “everything’s fine” stage to the “when things really, really bad” stage. The second half of the program, weeks 5-9, are a threat level so severe that you should hope and pray you never in your lifetime have to experience it.

I’m talking, of course, of the Nic Cage terror alert system!

In all honesty, the one good thing is that I am committed to finishing this program just because that’s the kind of person I am. As much as I may want to quit, I won’t. I never quit anything I set my mind to, which is one of the pieces of my personality that I actually like about myself. So here’s to you, couch to 5k, you wretched, soul-sucking wench. I will conquer you. But I may never run again after I do.

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Week 4

Today I started week 4 of the couch to 5k.

Maybe this looks like a piece of cake to you, but coming from last week when the most I had to run was 3 minutes at a time and I got a 3 minute reprieve afterwards, this was a lot. I keep looking to this week as the “make or break” week. C25k is weeding out the weak-willed. I have read several horror stories of runners repeating week 4 three times, four times, some quitting altogether–but it won’t be me! I will not allow myself to give up. I’m almost halfway through the program. I firmly believe that if I can get through this week and Week 5, I’m in the home stretch. It’s cake from there.

Now for the good news and the bad news. Bad first, as always: the 5k we were going to run in San Francisco appears to have been cancelled. So, no vacay 5k for us. But! The good news is, if I do have to repeat this week or the next, I have plenty of time to do so because I bought myself some time to find another race to run. I’m not going to just give up because the race I wanted to run isn’t happening–but I am a wee bit relieved that I don’t have to be ready to do this April 22. I have time if I need it.

In the last five minutes of running today, I took a break midway to walk for 30 seconds so I could check my heart rate. I also slowed my pace for the second half of today’s runs from the already slow 12-minute mile pace. I’m not doing this for speed or time. I am doing this solely for completion. This is pass/fail in my eyes. Next time I do a 5k, maybe I’ll focus more on form and speed. For now, I’m just trying to get through it. Getting through it is my everest.

(Did I just say “next time”? Man, I’m sounding awfully ambitious these days.)

My new running shoes worked wonderfully, by the way. I was running on a cloud. Far less shin splints and ankle soreness today than in runs past.

I also created an account at MyFitnessPal (so convenient! you can log calories and exercise on your phone and on the computer, it’s awesome). I didn’t want to get sucked in to Weight Watchers points or calorie counting, but the truth of the matter is I am not losing weight yet and I think I should be. Thanks to my sedentary deskjob lifestyle, I’m only allotted 1250 calories a day on the days I don’t exercise if I want to be on track to lose 1.5 lbs a week.

I think this is ridiculous because I always heard that anything under 1,200 is considered starving. We Americans are taught that there is a standard 2,000 calorie diet, so I thought if I was cutting calories to 1,500 and working out, I’d lose weight. Turns out that’s probably not the case for me or for many of you out there if you live a life like I do that requires you to sit still and do nothing all day. I wish I lived somewhere more pedestrian-friendly. In fact, I’m going to start walking for 30 minutes outside on my lunch break as soon as it starts getting warmer (in addition to my organized workout schedule 3-4 times a week and hopefully, yoga once a week). My new diet and exercise regimen is causing me to really introspectively consider the issues the standard adult lifestyle in this country causes in and of itself…beyond the epidemic of obesity and all the fried, fast foods and sweets that come along with it.

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t sort of dreading my remaining two running days this week. It’s freaking hard, man.

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zomg running shoes yayayay!

I recently wrote about these shoes.

It went from a pie-in-the-sky, no-way-can-I-afford-those-shoes kind of a dream. But then I slowly but surely convinced myself that these shoes were a necessity for the welfare of my running. They’re flashy. They’re proper running shoes. They’re lightweight. And for all intents and purposes, I am pretty sure they are vegan-friendly. It was a match made in heaven!

So I went to the New Balance website at work the other day…oh, woe! Size 8 were suddenly sold out. Say what? So I grumbled about it at my desk and my coworker suggested I check out Zappos. No luck, size 8s were sold out everywhere. Another coworker suggested Amazon. And I thought, Amazon has shoes? I mean, that’s a silly question, Amazon has everything, but I just never thought to look for shoes. So I searched, and lo and behold, they had them, and not only did they have them, they had them for $10 cheaper, PLUS free shipping! A sign from the gods. I ordered these suckers up. They were set to arrive some time next week so I just kind of forgot about them.

Meanwhile, I trudged through my third and final running day of the C25k Week 3. I felt like complete ass at work today. I was sure I was coming down with a cold or flu or something. I haven’t been sick with a cold or flu in over a year so it’s bound to happen eventually. I didn’t want to bail on my workout because I have no way of getting my third workout in without access to the office gym over the weekend (running outside is out of the question for two reasons…1) snow, and 2) I’m so not ready for that challenge yet). I wound up forcing myself to go with the mindset that if it’s too hard and I start wheezing, I’ll just stop, but at least I tried.

You should know something about me. Every day I try to talk myself out of my workout from the first sound of my alarm. My typical day goes a little something like this…

5:45 am: alarm sounds. oh hell no. snooze alarm.
5:55 am: alarm sounds. there is no way in hell I am working out today. too. too. tired.
7:30 am: driving to work. maybe with some coffee today won’t be so bad.
11:00 am: okay, fully caffeinated, I will totally get through today’s workout.
1:00 pm: post-lunch slump. oh hell no.
3:00 pm: second wind! going to eat this here banana and get ready for the workout at 4.
4:00 pm: walking to the gym. why do I have to work out today? why as a society have we gotten to the point that we have to participate in an organized cardio schedule to maintain our weight? why can’t I live somewhere pedestrian-friendly and get my exercise as a part of a daily active life? why can’t I be one of those people who gets a runner’s high? why do I HATE running? why am I so bad at running? I hope the gym isn’t busy. why does the guy at the security desk always say hi to me every day? can’t he see I’m not interested in his small talk? I’m clearly on a mission here.
4:05 pm: in the locker room. well, I’m here. best get going.

Yeah…it’s a daily struggle. This is my inner dialogue every. single. day.

So I got through my workout and it was hard. I wasn’t feeling well and I wanted to get out of there before the snow really started to come down. My shins were hurting, my ankles were sore, and I thought to the Week 4 workout and how it’s going to kick my ass. I’ve read so many testimonials where people had to repeat Week 4 three or four times and I don’t want to fail. And I also thought how badly I could use those new shoes I ordered for my aching, improperly-supported feet and legs, but they weren’t set to arrive until March 9, well after the point in which I’d need them most.

But then something magical happened.

They had been delivered! And now I have these flashy, comfy, supportive new running shoes that I can’t wait to test out on Monday! I’m sure I’ll still have the inner dialogue, but at least I can remind myself that the shoes make everything better.

In non-workout news, I’ve started to “come out” as vegan to my coworkers and more importantly, my family. I’ll have to write about that tomorrow. It deserves a post of its own. Happy Friday!

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