July 2011 Archives

in being healthy , challenges |


This month’s focus on Marathon Training was a success, I was able to complete all tasks.

  • 100k total // done 137.75k (85.6 miles) — the next milestone will be 100-mile month
  • at least 3 runs a week // done — 4 runs a week for week 1-2; 3 runs a week for week 3-4
  • 20k (12miles) long run // done twice — 21k and 23k weekend long runs
  • sub-30min 5k// done 29:20min — I got down to 6:09min/km for a while on one of the 6k runs, getting sub-6min/km should get easier

in being healthy |


23.31km (14.5miles) 3:04:28hr 7:55min/km

Long run this week is 15miles (24k) which I thought would take me about 3 hrs. I didn’t want to run 3 times around Hyde Park so I did a route through 4 parks — my local park for warm up, then to Hyde Park, Green Park and St James’s Park. Hyde Park was busy, but manageable and actually quite nice. Green Park was nice too, not too crowded except the bit around the tube station. St James’s Park was the pits — full of tourists and groups of idiotic foreign kids who were noisy, blocked the path and had zero sense to move over even when someone yells “excuse me”. I hate to be judgmental but it’s always Spanish and Italian and Middle Eastern people. I wonder what they teach in their schools, they don’t behave like they even have schools.

Planned 3 walk breaks, ended up taking 4. Had a couple of cereal bars for the breaks, and it was good that Hyde Park has a water fountain so I could refill my bottle. Pace of 7:55min/km is around 12:45m/m, which is acceptable. Didn’t fully complete the 15 miles cos I was in a hurry to get home to skype with Mum, I don’t think the extra 700m matters.

Less tired than after the long run last week, so hopefully this means I’m gaining some endurance. Cut back week next week, then the push towards the first 20-miler of the training plan.

in habitat |


There was an article on BBC comparing average home sizes in several countries. There are some assumptions (age of property, location) but the message is that homes in the UK and Ireland are so much smaller than the ones in Australia and the US. It’s kind of a “duh” statement, considering the relative sizes of those countries. Seems pretty indicative to me. I’m reminded of how shocked and unhappy I was when I moved from Chicago to a flat in London that is half the size and double the rent.

AT-Chi helpfully converted the metric areas to square feet for the benefit of their US readers:

  • US: 2,300 sq ft
  • Australia: 2,217 sq ft
  • France: 1,216 sq ft
  • Ireland: 947 sq ft
  • UK: 818 sq ft

Now if we included home sizes in Asia…I’m thinking half or one-third the size of the average UK home so we should be grateful. The Belize private island I was looking at yesterday, on the other hand, comes in at about 5,000 sq ft. Still looking at those private islands.

in evidence of my insanity , habitat |

privateisland01 privateisland02

I have a weird recurring fantasy of living on a deserted island. Nothing special, just doing some fishing, tending vegetables, making a compost heap. How I got there and how I got the outdoor survival skills, well, I can just ignore those questions for being too logical. It’s a fantasy after all.

So I was looking at private islands for sale. On one end, in the affordable category at only $99,000 is the island of alligator caye parcel in Belize — or rather, a portion of the island, still undeveloped and only reachable by boat. On the other end of the spectrum is cave cay in the Bahamas. $110million gets you a fully developed estate with hilltop house, marina and airstrip. And a hotel resort complex under construction.

Heh, one can dream.

in arts and media |

When mm is here in August I’m determined to take her to at least one musical, we love musicals. There are so many choices, but it’s a done deal when I read that Love Never Dies is closing on 28 August. Originally I thought we’d go on the Monday, but after listening to Ramin Karimloo, who doesn’t perform on Mondays, we’re going Saturday. Shame that mm is leaving on Sunday, otherwise we can catch the last show.

in eating and drinking |


I had pancakes and bacon breakfast a couple of weekends ago at the wetherspoon pub in Victoria station while Sis and I were hanging out.

  • the good — real British bacon. Years in the US and I had missed real bacon. There’s a big difference between the two types of bacon, so much so that they can be considered two different meats. American bacon is streaky, fatty and served crunchy. You bite into it and it’s like biting into a mouthful of grease. Quite yummy in a perverted, unhealthy kind of way. British bacon is leaner, less salty and actually tastes of meat. It’s usually not fried or grilled to within an inch of its life and is more like cured pork chop.
  • the bad — the bacon wasn’t done very well, in fact the whole dish was a bit tasteless. I guess it was too much to expect from mass produced restaurant food.
  • the ugly — microwaved rubbery pancakes. I couldn’t decide if these sorry excuse for foodstuff were what we’d call drop scones in the UK or the American pancake. And they were definitely reheated.

It being a pub, I managed to finish the meal by washing it all down with a pint of cider (yes, it was available even at breakfast time). That made everything tolerable. Ah, the effects of cider.

in being healthy |

The idea behind homerun is simple — reserve a place, show up, dump your bag, RUN, collect your bag, go home. They transport the running group’s bags by bike to a pre-arranged destination and an agreed time. A great way of combining the work-home commute with running.

They only have one route right now, from Charing Cross to Clapham Common (4miles) but there’s a few proposed ones on the website they say they will consider putting on if enough people vote for them. The only one that is vaguely suitable for me is Oxford Circus to Sheperd’s Bush and even that one is a stretch. I’ll wait for them to be more established, but the idea is a good one.

in being healthy |


21.01km 2:48:09hr 8:00min/km

The training plan had a 14-miler this weekend, but I deliberately only went out for 13 miles because that’s the half marathon distance. Ran down to Hyde Park, did 2 circuits then back home. It was tough — the weather decided to turn sunny and I couldn’t count on there being any water fountains. I took one gu, a cereal bar, one bottle of water and one of gatorade. Finished them all except the cereal bar. May be on one of the later walk breaks, I should have ate it, probably why I was so slow and exhausted for the last 2-3km.

in random words |


I went to the bsb uk author reading at Waterstone’s Nottingham on Saturday. It’s about 2.5hr one way, so I hesitated a lot before deciding that I really should go support the UK/European authors. I booked the train tickets online, and found that first class was only an extra £2. What a bargain, I got 4 seats with table all to myself (both ways), peace and quiet and free tea.

I’ve never been to Nottingham, and the high street is just like any other high street with loads of shops and people on a Saturday. The reading was well attended, over 50 people and 7 readers. Glad to see that the UK/European contingent is well represented. What I liked particularly about this reading is that I got to meet authors that a year ago, I wouldn’t have imagined having the opportunity of meeting. Listening to their reading is a nice way of being introduced to their work. One of the authors actually gave me a free copy of her forthcoming, yet to be published, book, which was so very kind. I read it on the journey back, and will finish it tomorrow, it’s funny and well written.

After the reading, the group adjourned to a nearby pub. I was having a great time chatting with my running friend K and catching up with my NY friend C. It was a shame I had to leave quite early to catch the train home. The event continues tomorrow morning with another session, but I have a long training run. Hopefully I’m still in the UK next year, if they hold the event again.

in eating and drinking |


Lunch tomorrow will be on the train, so I made strawberry sandwich. The bread is the Best.Bread.Ever from poilane, and instead of sugar, there’s a generous helping of peanut butter. Apparently it’s standard fare in Holland. It’s official, the Dutch have great taste.

in on the relationship front |


In 4 weeks, mm will be here, and I’ll have her for 10 days. I have enough airmiles to get her a ticket, so thank you [our employer]. So much to do! Book Barcelona flight & hotel, do research on Cornwall, find restaurants in London, schedule her days so she doesn’t feel rushed but there’s something to do. Our plan is to take it easy but it needs planning. I’m going to start looking at last minute holidays and b&bs and cars and restaurants and…everything. It’s been almost half a year, I can still remember the physical pain I felt when we said good-bye at the airport. Sigh. Can’t wait.

in being healthy |


11.15km 1:13:49hr 6:37min/km

Missed yesterday’s run already so even though I did not feel like it, I reluctantly made myself go running after work today. One of the trepidations was that the plan says 7 miles (11k) and I haven’t gone on runs more than 5k during the week for a while. The first thing that went right was the nike+ GPS, which had acted up the last 2 runs, decided to fix itself. The second, and main thing, that went well was it was a good run. Not fast, but at 4k I felt like I had more in the tank than 2/3 and at halfway it was the same. Conditions were good — cool, cloudy and a steady drizzle throughout. Because of the rain, the track was free of the casual people who normally gets in the way and annoy me. Ultimately I decided the reason behind the relatively good run is…thick, cushiony socks.

in family first |

Took the same zipcar out tonight, to take Sis and niece to Heathrow. It was 7pm and the traffic was horrendous, there was something going on at the A40 so I had to detour down to Hammersmith and to the A4. There was still plenty of time, they checked in without any problems and went through the gate quickly. Sniff. I’ll miss having family around.

in family first , going places |

sisuk275legocity sisuk288legocity

One of the places my niece really wanted to visit is legoland, so I got a zipcar over there. Only 1hr’s drive to Windsor, we got there mid-morning.

There are a lot of lego there, although we expected even more. The rides weren’t really lego, and neither were tables and chairs and everyday stuff. The park itself is geared towards kids, there are rides that are for the under-13s only, so my niece had a great time. She was a great driver in driving school and took us up on the balloon. The newest ride, Atlantis, is a yellow submarine that took a circuit around a giant aquarium that contained fish, sharks, stingrays and lego mermaids. The centrepiece legocity has replica miniature cities — London, English countryside with cricket team, Paris, Italy, and even the space shuttle in a NASA compound.

If only the weather held up. Dry, sunny spells were interrupted by heavy thunderstorms. During the storms we managed to hole up at the building stations and built a windmill and a racing car. All in all, a good day out especially with young children.

in being healthy |


14.5km 1:43:29hr 7:08min/km

Trying to keep to the training plan — 9 miles long run this weekend. First time I tried running down to Hyde Park, it was a decent enough run, even in the heavy rain. If only the nike+ hadn’t decided to malfunction and overestimated how fast and far I was running — it claimed I’d done 17.5km at under 6min/km, hahaha. The GPS didn’t record the run at all, this was self-plotted on the nikerunning site. Good thing I had the garmin, so I could keep track and stop when I hit 9 miles. That’s another problem with running in London, I don’t have enough sense of how far I’ve run, unlike on the lake where I know it’s 3km to the roundabout and 11km to the totem pole. Sigh.

in |


we went to the brand new m&m store in london, all 4 levels of colourful, non-melty chocolate-y goodness. There were merchandise, containers, and of course rows upon rows of glass cylinders filled with m&ms for people to mix their own colours.

in challenges |

Not quite at 50% completion, still on target for mileage and # of runs. Need to work up to the 20k. To recap, there is only one goal for July, MARATHON TRAINING:

  • 100k total // 44.27k, by the end of week 2 it will be 56k
  • at least 3 runs a week // week 1: 4 runs; week 2: 3 so far, will do a LR at the weekend
  • 20k (12miles) long run // probably nearer the end of the month
  • sub-30min 5k// done 29:20min

in photography is life |


I’m playing around with photography apps, this is an instagram pic of the most mundane kitchen object, my kettle. Fun.

in eating and drinking , photography is life |


Been a while since I posted a homemade food pic, so here’s one of my most “famous” ones — lamb shank with roasted root vegetables. Must get back to cooking more.

in mind babble |


A colleague from my old chicago office was telling me about them needing someone to cover for maternity leave later in the year and she was joking that they want to suggest that I went back. Sigh. Wishful thinking.

in mind babble |

Finally got round to going for a haircut today. It’s been almost 3 months. Oh how I love the sound of lots of hair being chopped off. The pile was quite substantial.

in being healthy |

uk10k022bigben uk10k028finish

nike+: 10.4km 1:06:39hr 6.24min/km
chip time: 10k 1:05:57hr 6.41min/km

Race #5 this year, the british 10k. There’s a lot wrong with it, but it benefited from its major trump card: location location location. The route took 25,000 runners through hyde park corner, trafalgar square, st paul’s, embankment (across from the london eye), westminster bridge, parliament square, westminster abbey, and finished on whitehall. Considering I was forever stopping to take pictures — 24 in the set — I think I did pretty okay. My garmin lost its signal in the tunnels, the nike+ registered 10.4km, so even better.

So that was the pro, how about the cons:

  • no corrals, and I was lucky in the free-for-all scrum to be near the front with a view of the start line
  • the 9.35am start was delayed 10mins. From what I can see, it was because they had to set up the camera to interview the Mayor of Westminster, who was the official starter, and there were lots of dithering. Was it respectful to the 25,000 runners to be running late because of this? Probably not
  • they played all 3 verses of the national anthem and the elites were getting ready at the end of verse 1 and then had to stop, pretty embarrassing
  • funnel start caused lots of congestion
  • did I mention no corrals?
  • not even 300m from the start, still on Piccadilly, and we had to dodge past these idiotic women (and they’re almost always women) who were walking 4 abreast, I’m not kidding
  • should be rebranded as a fun run, it was good that there were so many charity runners, but so many of them were clueless about racing etiquette. Nothing in the program to tell them that walking is fine, at the back of the pack and in single file, jeez no common sense
  • only water available on the route — yes it’s only a 10k, but considering the number of charity runners and the hot weather, would have been nice to have gatorade and wet sponge
  • gatorade was available at the end, but nothing else, no fruit, no banana, no cereal bar, zilch
  • start and finish line too far away from bag check and meeting point
  • not enough portaloos
  • badly designed finisher’s t-shirt (in thin cotton), it’s going straight to the charity bin
  • apparently they ran out of medals (!)
  • (minor gripe) whoever designed the website must have been a myspace reject — framed, flashing graphics, poor font, not much content, difficult to find actual information, results not downloadable
  • chip time took far too long to be posted, and then it’s only a time with no indication of classification


The reviews on runner’s world had similar sentiments to mine. The route was one of the best I’ve run on. Can’t beat Central London with all its glory. Supporters and spectators all along the route, atmosphere was good. Luckily I had a brainwave and stuffed one of those small collapsible shopping bags in my pocket and didn’t need to bag check. By the time I got on the tube and home it was almost noon.

Despite all the shortcomings I signed up for next year’s race, because only 2 weeks from the start of the Olympics and the the atmosphere in London will be sports-crazy then. Not sure about subsequent years though. Results:

  • overall — 4715/6520 (that’s the number of people who paid for chip timing)
  • gender — 852/2623 (ditto) — actually this was pretty good, to emphasize the charity fun run nature

in how the day went |


We picked up my niece from Victoria in the morning, then took her to the Natural History museum. Grrr, the dinosaurs were closed for cleaning. There was a GBP10 dinosaur alternative exhibition but it wasn’t very good.

Went home for a late lunch of tortellini, gnocchi, cheese and cauliflower. They napped while I played on the computer. Dinner was at Benihana. Little one was fascinated by the shows, although she only wanted sushi and hibachi rice. Sis and I splurged out and had sirloin, chateaubriand and prawns. Oh, and a lot of cocktails.

in eating and drinking |


The first time I went to le relais de venise was when I was in new york last year. The one in London is just north of Bond Street and the menu is identical. Sis and I were supposed to go running for a bit then to the Thai place opposite the station, but I decided to take her to steak frites instead.

The food was as good, the sauce buttery and creamy. We had a whole bottle of corbieres and followed with dessert. Must go running tomorrow to make up for the rich food, heehee.

in eating and drinking , family first , in the news |


Met Sis’ friend C and his partner for dinner at Strada. Pretty okay food, nothing special. The best was the garlic pizza bread starter. I had risotto. First time I’ve met them together (can’t remember C that well), but we had a great time and good conversation.

In other news, after a week of outlandish and outrageous revelations, the announcement came in the afternoon that the news of the world will close after sunday. I’ve been following the story all week, and I can truly say good riddance. There are no words to describe what they did, the invasion of privacy of ordinary folks at their most vulnerable is just…inhuman.

in being healthy |


chip time: 5.63km (3.5miles) 34.28min 6.07min/km

My third corporate challenge, my first in London. It was a big affair, the only JPMC CC location where the race is spread over 2 days. I’ll save my complaints about how the London office totally lags behind the Chicago office in terms of race organisation and participation. Suffice it to say that there were 200 people in Chicago last year (300 including supporters and family) and we had a tent, catering, a prize draw and a great time. In London we struggled to get 50 runners and we congregated at the signpost that said “meeting point G to O” — no tent, no supporters, can’t even find the group at times. At least we got a t-shirt and the same picnic chair gift. Oh, and there was a voucher for 2 drinks and a burger from the organisers. Big deal.

A field of 13,000 people and it was a corral start for the first time this year. I’d never run in Battersea Park before so it was always going to be a new experience. It was a meandering route on both concrete walking path and grass. I didn’t see many of my team mates, it was just like running on my own. I started out fast, 9mm, tucked in behind a couple of ladies. Lost them after a while, the field never thinned out. Did pretty well, considering I haven’t been training and I’m not at my fittest. Yes, 5mins slower than last year is a big difference. Ah well.

I queued up to retrieve my backpack, queued up for the burger and beer and sat down in the sun to scoff it all down. Found remnants of my group and stayed for a chat for 10mins but I was eager to get home. Results:

  • overall: 7,445/10,090
  • gender: 1,747/3,377

in outside interests |

Fabulous idea that Tesco introduced in Korea. Posters that mimic supermarket shelves at subway stations. Scan the qr code of the item, checkout via an app, the stuff is delivered. I’d be all over this.

in eating and drinking , family first |


Met Sis after work and went to Brick Lane. Had a nice Indian meal — chicken bhuna, paneer mattar, lamb biryani. Then walked to the famous 24hr authentic bagel shop and got some plain bagels. Ah memories.

in family first |

sisuk064stansted sisuk092berries

At first we wanted to go strawberry picking, but the PYO farm was closed. We ended up at Stansted Park. Didn’t go inside the house, just explored the grounds. Rode on the miniature railway, had lunch at the garden centre and did the maze with my niece. Then it was home to play in the garden for a while. We kicked a ball around, blew bubbles and ate gooseberries.

Sis came back to London with me. She’ll stay for a week for shopping and to go to the places she used to visit. The train journey was pretty long, almost 2 hrs. We had luggage and were tired so we got a cab. We thought we’d get kebab but the place was closed so we got ham and bread and stuff for a sandwich instead. She has the guest room, she’s all set up with the internet, hopefully she’ll be fine.

in family first |

sisuk017chicathedral sisuk040fetedraw

Sis, my niece and I went to Chichester to explore this morning. The big lakeland store of course. While Sis did more shopping, I took my niece to Chichester cathedral. There was a sculpture exhibition where she could photograph to her heart’s content. I remember little one being good with a camera from when she was only 3 years old. The Red Arrows were also lurking, and we were able to catch very brief glimpses.

Lunch at a pub, then it was back to Bosham for the church fair. Very small, but well attended community affair. We won a nice wedgewood vase and a jar of honey at the tombola. I bought a jar of homemade chutney at what was probably the WI (or equivalent) stall. Dinner at home, then more relaxation. It’s so quiet, the air is good, the garden is lovely, I’m with family.

in family first |


Sis’ family are on their annual UK visit to see my niece’s grandparents. I took the train from Victoria, and 1.5hrs later arrived at Bosham. It’s just a short walk to their house. It’s also sis’ birthday, so I bought her a red velvet cupcake cake from hummingbird bakery. They say it can serve 8 people, ha!! It was so rich and tall we all only had a small slice, and the whole cake could have served 20.

I have the sofa bed in the front room. It’s very pleasant and full of curios, they’ve lived there for many many years.


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