Thursday, February 27, 2014

My First Raw/Vegan Food Experience

Since my Uncle Alan and I both work downtown Austin, we do our best to get together about once a week for a lunch date. We always try to hit up new places around town and he mentioned a local spot called Beets Cafe. It's not walking distance from either of our offices, but it's only about a 2 mile drive away. He had been to Beets Cafe before and raved about how delicious and healthy it is. He also did the same 3-day cleanse I did last month after I recommended it to him, so he's always down to try new and exciting healthy adventures.

Uncle Al picked me up at my office and we arrived at Beets Cafe around 1:00 (he recommend we not go right at 12 since it gets a little packed during peak lunch hours). There were plenty of open tables at this point so we grabbed a booth and browsed the menu. Since he had been there before, he suggested a few items and we opted for sharing multiple plates instead of ordering our own individual entrees. 

Note: I warned him before we dug in about all of the picture-taking about to go down...

The first thing he recommended was their "Beets Me" juice. It's a blend of beets, carrots, apple, and ginger. The color is fantastic! 

This was my first time drinking any kind of juice with beets in it so I wasn't sure what to expect. He assured me before I ordered it that it did not taste like grass (like other juices I've tasted before)! It was actually quite tasty! Since it contained apples, it was sweeter than I expected. It was served at room temp and I probably would have enjoyed it even more if it was blended with ice and a tad cooler...but still a good drink overall!

Next, he suggested I try their curried carrot soup. It contained carrot juice, orange juice, pine nuts and cashews, miso, ginger, garlic, lemon, spices, and crystal salt.  

In contrast to the beet juice, I expected this to be was not. It obviously did not click with me that this is a raw restaurant and nothing is cooked/heated. After the cold shock wore off, this soup turned out to be delicious! It was probably my favorite part of the meal. Next time I go, I'll be ordering the large bowl of it instead of a cup. 

After the soup, we went for the Nori Rolls. These were similar to little sushi rolls, filled with "mock tuna" pate, vegetables, and sprouts, served with tamari dipping sauce (you won't find any gluten-packed soy sauce here)! According to their menu, "mock tuna" is a mixture of almonds, sunflower seeds, celery, onion, kelp, lemon juice, herbs and spices. You can get your Nori Rolls filled with that or sliced avocado. I wanted to try something new and different so we opted for the "mock tuna" filling. 

It was extremely pretty to look at it! This roll was very very crunchy (I'm guessing it's from the nuts in the "mock tuna") but I thoroughly enjoyed it. It reminded me of a veggie roll at a sushi place, so it was pretty normal tasting for me. 

Next up were the entrees. We ordered the Pizza Rustica and the Taco Plate. 

The Pizza Rustica is made on "a sprouted sunflower seed, hemp crust generously topped with seasoned almond nut cheese, zesty tomato sauce, marinated mushrooms, sweet peppers, crispy onions, olives, fresh tomato, basil, spices, and crystal salt, served with a petite Caesar salad." Keeping with the theme, this pizza was uncooked. It was a cold pizza with a soft crust (not crispy like most thin crust pizzas, but I'm sure that's because there is no flour in it). Even though it didn't taste like a traditional pizza and had quite a different texture to it, it was very flavorful and I ate most of it ("Oh, you wanted to share Uncle Al?"). 

The Taco Plate included "three crispy corn taco shells filled with a veggie ground meat, topped with shredded lettuce, salsa and drizzled with cashew nacho cheeze, served with "sunflower beanz" and a choice of side salad." We went with the Cabbage Kraut side salad. Once again, these tacos were cold as well, but I didn't mind it. My favorite part of this dish was the cashew nacho cheeze. It reminded me a little bit of thousand island dressing. And the taco shells themselves were extra thin and crispy. They were a little messy and hard to keep together while eating, but most crunchy tacos are like that! 

Surprisingly, they offer cooking classes at the restaurant every so often. I'd love to learn how to "cook" vegan and explore these other options, but the classes can be a tad pricey...just like their food. For all of the above, our bill was about $50 (before tip).

Overall, I loved our visit to Beets Cafe and I most definitely want to return to try out other dishes on their menu. They have an ELT (their version of a BLT) but it's made with crispy eggplant instead of bacon and served on an almond sunflower flatbread. Their smoothies and desserts also sound very appealing to me!  Vegan Chocolate Mousse...sign me up. 

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Cowtown Half Marathon Race Recap

This past weekend I drove up to Ft. Worth to participate in my 4th Half Marathon. 

I left work Friday afternoon and stayed with my friend Kristen throughout the weekend. She ran the race with me (she did the full 26.2) so we planned on having a nice, relaxing weekend to rest up for the race on Sunday.

We went to bed early both Friday and Saturday night. Saturday morning, we headed to Ft. Worth for the packet pick-up and to explore the Expo. The venue itself was crowded because they had just finished the 5k, 10k, and Kid Fun Run that morning. We got there right at the end of the races, so it was a little chaotic. However, the lines to pick up our packets and t-shirts were really short. We stopped by a few booths and sampled a couple various products before heading back to Dallas. 

Sunday morning, we woke up bright and early at 5am. By 5:30 we were in our cars for the 30 minute drive back to Ft. Worth. The weather was close to perfect at the beginning (around 50 degrees). We had about 45 minutes to kill before crossing the starting line, so we walked around looking for her group of running friends. Unfortunately, we were only able to find one of them and couldn't locate the others. We lined up in Corral 5 and were off running around 7:15. 

I knew going into this race that it would be a slower one for me. I was not familiar with the course, I hadn't trained properly, and I wanted to run my portion of the race with Kristen to keep her company for her first portion of the full 26.2. Pacing yourself for a full is much different than pacing yourself for a half, so I knew my time would be a bit slower than if I was running alone and going at my normal half marathon time. But I was completely fine with it! 

The first 3 or 4 miles our pace was anywhere between 10:00-10:30. After that, we picked it up a bit and got closer to 9:30-9:45ish until mile 8. Somewhere in between there we ran through the Ft. Worth Stockyards. Let me just say, the cobblestone streets were not my friend! My knee was killing me on the uneven pavement. 

So you see what happens after mile 9? I could see that hill from a ways back and I knew it'd kill me. So I stopped at a hydration station for some water where Kristen and I got separated. It was okay though because the half and full marathon courses split off at mile 9 anyways. I was on my own for the remaining 4 miles. It was so hard going from having a running partner, to tackling that hill alone, and trying to pick the pace back up. Let's just say it didn't happen! 

Miles 9-11 were terrible and I walked for a few minutes of it. I knew at this point there was NO way I would PR or even break 2 hours, so I really didn't even care. I just wanted to finish. My hips and toes were hurting and at this point the weather had warmed up a bit. 

Thankfully after mile 11 there was a huge downhill that I basically sprinted down and by that point I only had 1 mile left. I crossed the finish line and I wasn't upset but wasn't happy with myself either. This was one of the hardest races I've done and by far my slowest time ever. Which, as I said earlier I expected that going in...but 2:11...yikes! That's close to 20 minutes slower than my past half marathon times. 

The best part of this race was having my first experience running  a race with someone. I've only done half's alone, so it was pretty awesome to have a partner...Kristen is so amazing and kept me entertained the whole time. I also really like the finishers medal. It's so country! 

Even though I'm not overjoyed by my finishing time, it was a fun day and I know there are more races coming up where I can try prepare more ahead of time and push myself a little harder.

My next race involves Kristen again, as well as my friend Brett. We are doing the Bearathon Half in Waco, TX on March 22nd. This is Brett's first half so I'm excited to see how he does and what he thinks. Apparently this race is known as the "hardest half marathon in Texas." 

8 days later, I have the Biggest Loser Half on March 30th in Austin. Back to back race weekends should be interesting! 

I just signed up yesterday for the ZOOMA half in April in Bastrop, TX. I think that will be the last half I do until the fall, because I know the Texas heat will soon be kicking in!  

A full recap of Gluten-Free February coming up soon.

Friday, February 21, 2014

My First Acupuncture Experience

Lately, my back has really been bothering me. I've always had a little back pain due to slight scoliosis, but it's really been acting up the past few weeks. I'm sure sitting at a desk all day doesn't help either. I have been getting massages once a month since 2010, but they only help for a day or two. Yoga was really beneficial during January, but I need a permanent, longer term solution. 

I did a little research and stumbled upon acupuncture. I'm fairly familiar with how it works but never seriously considered doing it myself. I always thought Chinese medicine was a little too different for me. But after reading up on it and finding a location about a mile from work (with appointments after 5pm!), I decided to bite the bullet and make an appointment.


I wasn't quite sure what to expect. I have never had a fear of needles, so I knew that part wouldn't bother me. I think I was most worried about laying completely still for a long period of time while they were in me. 

When I got to the location, it was a small, re-done house close to downtown. The acupuncturist greeted me and took me a small room. She went over the liability forms and procedures with me and then asked me about why I was there. I explained my issues and problems and informed her that I do run quite a bit as well. I was happy to discover that she is a runner as well and just finished the LiveStrong Full Marathon last weekend! So I'm glad she could relate to my aches and pains.

She described the procedure and let me see the needles beforehand. They're very flexible, thin, and aren't like shot needles at all. Before the actual acupuncture part, the Doctor described two additional procedures that she does before putting the needles in. One technique is called Gua Sha and the other is called Cupping. 

According to her website:
"Gua Sha is the use of friction through heavy rubbing with either a metal, plastic or bone device, to bring toxins to the body’s surface.  It is mainly used to stimulate circulation and relieve pain."

"Cupping is the use of glass cups and fire to create suction.  This action draws toxins away from the body, and at the same time improves circulation to muscles and soft tissue."

After Dr. Kung described these procedures to me, she warned me that they could leave a little bit of bruising and a "rash-like" experience for a few days. But she reassured me that both techniques were completely optional. Seeing as how I wanted to get all of the benefits out of my time, I told her to go ahead and try them. 

Neither one was painful, just a tad uncomfortable. The Gua Sha was done with a Water Buffalo bone and felt like someone was running the edge of a smooth piece of plastic over my back. The cupping was done with 8 round jars and felt like cold chip-clips were clipped to my back (like large clothes-pins). Check out the aftermath photo below...

It definitely looks worse than it was/is. The best way to describe it is...hickeys! Hickeys don't hurt...they're just not attractive. She said the marks would go away in a few days. No tank tops or bathing suits for me for a while!

After those 2 procedures were done, she put about 4 needles in each ankle, 2 in the back of my knee area, and I believe about 12-14 in my back/shoulder/neck area. Even though the needles are tiny and thin, I could still feel a small sensation and prick each time she inserted one. But once again, it was never painful, just a tiny pinch and it went away immediately. After I was fully pricked, she sprayed something similar to Icy Hot on my back and I felt an instant cooling sensation that turned into heat. For the most part, my back was fairly numb and it was time to relax. 

She put on some tranquil music and left the room for about 25 minutes (she did check on me a few times). I was so relaxed and I would have fallen asleep if I had about 10 more minutes on the table. After the allotted time had passed, she returned and removed the needles. I got dressed and felt great! 

Today my back feels less tight and doesn't have that burning sensation I usually get after sitting at my desk for a long period of time. She suggested I come back again next week for another session, but she does gradually ween her clients off. So at first, I'll go weekly, then bi-weekly, monthly, and then hopefully just as needed. 

Overall, it was a good experience and I'm glad I tried it. I want to give it a few sessions to see if there is any long term relief and if it actually is working, or if I'm just mentally thinking it is. Stay tuned! 

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Gluten-Free Check-In

I'm 12 days into Gluten-Free February! So far, I wouldn't say it's been extremely difficult, but it hasn't been overwhelmingly easy either. The hardest part has been to consciously be on my toes regarding my food choices for every meal...especially since this is 100% my choice and not something that is mandatory for my health (i.e. an allergy or Celiac disease). 

When I'm thinking about it and making a mindful effort to pick gluten-free options, it's pretty easy because there are a lot of alternatives out there. However, since it's not a full on habit yet, there have been times when it hasn't been top-of-mind and something slips. 

Like yesterday, I went to get some hot soup at the local Asian restaurant next door to my office. I made sure that my entree was 100% gluten-free, but didn't think twice about pouring a few drops of soy sauce into the soup (surprise, soy sauce contains gluten). Whoops! It's circumstances like that where I've slipped a bit. 

Another example...Girl Scout cookies. I'm so accustomed to treating myself to a few bites during this lovely time that is Girl-Scout-cookie-season, that it didn't once cross my mind that they of course have gluten in them. I realized it about 3 hours later. 

Other than those two occasions, I've been pretty solid throughout this goal. 

Side note: It's surprising how many vegetables can be ruined with bread crumbs...this makes me angry (this month). 

I have discovered that gluten-free pizza crust and gluten-free bread is for the birds! It's very tasteless and dry. I'd rather just not eat anything with "bread" instead of try and eat a gluten-free sandwich or pizza. Most people might just say, "HEY, eat a salad!" Which, typically I'd be 100% down for...but turns out, most salad dressings have gluten in them. Lovely. I guess I'll just stick to oil & vinegar. 

So far, I haven't noticed a change in how I feel, health-wise. And my weight hasn't changed much either. But I still have 16 days to we shall see! 

Happy Hump Day! 

Friday, February 7, 2014

Upcoming Races + A Free Race Entry!

Happy Friday to All!

My juice cleanse is complete and I'm finally back to eating solid food (hallelujah)! My first meal back was a Mexican dish of tuna ceviche and chicken breast topped with salsa verde and a side of black beans...I died. I'm really going to try and stick with healthy eating and nourish my body to the best of my ability. 

I have a couple of races coming up in the next two months so I need to make sure and focus on eating things that will help me do well and cut back on the junk that will slow me down. 

I made some delicious no-bake oatmeal bars the other day (courtesy of the recipe on PB Fingers website here). They are scrumptious, healthy, and the easiest thing in the world to make. They literally took me 5 minutes to throw together and have less than 5 ingredients in them. I've been having one for breakfast the past few days, but I know they'll make an awesome pre or post race snack. Seriously so filling and full of fiber and protein! 

My next race is fast approaching. I'll be participating in the CowTown Half Marathon in Ft. Worth, TX on Feb. 23, while my amazing friend Kristen attempts her first Ultra Marathon (30 miles) during that same time...I can't even image running a full marathon right now, let alone a full + 4 more miles. But I know she's can do it! She's a beast...and I'll make her eat one of these awesome oatmeal bars beforehand for some added energy. 

I have two additional races scheduled in March. 

On the 22nd, I'll be running the Bearathon Half Marathon in the town of my Alma mater (GO BAYLOR)! Kristen will once again be by my side. 

On the 30th, I'll be back in Austin to compete in the BiggestLoser RunWalk Half Marathon. 
Side Note: Did anyone else watch the amazing transformations on this year's BiggestLoser season finale? WOW! So motivating and encouraging. 


And now for the good news: The BiggestLoser team has been gracious enough to give away a few free race entries to my readers! Leave a comment below telling me why you should win a FREE entry for either the Half or the 5k race on March 30th, 2014. 

3 lucky winners will be chosen Monday, February 24th. Good luck! 

Thursday, February 6, 2014

My First Juice Cleanse

On Monday I started my first juice cleanse!

I ordered it online from a place in Austin called Skinny Limits and picked it up on Sunday afternoon. I had never done one before so I wasn't quite sure what to expect.

The cleanse lasts for 3 days and you drink 6 juices each day...a total of 18 juices. I drank one bottle every 2 hours throughout the day. It was a little pricey (about $150 total) but this is something that's been on my bucket list for a while, so I just decided to bite the bullet and do it. Skinny Limits is one of the more affordable options out there compared to a few others in the area. Of course, I also could have made my own juice for less, but this was super convenient and I knew that if I dropped a good amount of cash on it, I'd be more motivated to actually complete it. 

The first day was probably the hardest for me. At first, the taste of the juice was just alright; but as the days went on, I grew more accustomed to them and they became more delicious. 

Here's what was in each juice:

Pure & Simple (Drinks #1, #3, & #5): Kale, Cucumber, Spinach, Apple, Parsley, Celery, Lemon.
Balance (Drink #2): Kale, Cucumber, Spinach, Apple, Parsley, Celery, Lemon, Ginger.
Scorpion Lemonade (Drink #4): Lemons, Agave Nectar, Cayenne, Filtered Water.
Crescent Moon (Drink #6): Raw cashews, Vanilla Bean, Cinnamon, Agave Nectar, Filtered Water.

They made note to inform me that it's important to drink them in the stated order

The Pure & Simple and the Balance juices tasted almost identical to me. The only difference is that the Balance has added ginger (which didn't differentiate the taste at all for me). The Scorpion Lemonade was the hardest to take down because it had quite a bit of cayenne pepper in it. I ended up diluting it a bit with more water so it wouldn't be as tart and spicy. The Crescent Moon was hands down my absolute favorite! It was sweet and creamy, and I wanted more. It tasted almost like a milkshake and I demolished each one within a solid 3-5 minutes. 

Skinny Limits, as well as other juice-cleanse companies out there, recommend not eating during the allotted cleanse time. For me, this was tough. On the evening on Day 1 I had a handful of baby carrots because I had a craving to chew something. During Day 2, I went for a 4 mile run so I added a banana to my 5th drink of the day by blending it up in the blender with some ice. It changed the taste slightly, but I knew I needed some extra nutrients after my workout. I never once got a headache, felt extreme hunger or sickness, or got lethargic. Despite the fact that they recommend not eating during the 3 days, everyone should do what works best for them and gauge how they feel throughout the days.  

Even though weight-loss wasn't my main reason behind doing this cleanse, I ended up losing a total of 5lbs in the 3 days. I feel great, I have more energy, and I don't crave "crap" food. This cleanse is a great way to kick start a diet or get you back on track to clean eating.

If you don't feel like you can do a full 3 days, Skinny Limits has other cleanses available. I felt better even after just 1 day, so you could always do that if it works for you, your schedule, and your budget. There are also different flavors of juices you can pick from if you don't like a particular ingredient in the above juices (I knew I couldn't do a juice with beets, carrots, or wheatgrass...bleh)! If you don't live in the Austin area, they do deliver/ship anywhere in the US (for an additional fee).  

I highly recommend this cleanse. I already convinced my Uncle Alan to do it and he's picking up his pack of juices tomorrow! My mom is next on my convincing list :) 

Side Note: All juices are Gluten-Free, so I'm still in line with my February goal! 

Monday, February 3, 2014

February - Gluten Free

For my February goal, I am going gluten free! As well as going Facebook free! :) 

So far I haven't had the easiest time with finding gluten free meals...especially at restaurants. It's much harder than you might think! On Saturday I went out to eat for lunch and dinner and the menu options were fairly limited. 

Thankfully, I was able to find a gluten free pizza at Trader Joe's to eat for the Super Bowl! And my friend Korie was kind enough to pick up some gluten free cupcakes to bring over. The cupcakes were delicious but the pizza left more to be desired. I'm not gonna tasted like cardboard. But I ate it...and had chips & salsa and carrots & hummus to tide me over. Thankfully I can still drink wine. 

Speaking of wine, I also started my 3-day juice cleanse today. I'll blog about it after it's over, but so far it's not the easiest thing I've ever done.