Monthly Archives: May 2011

Conferencing in Canada

The maple leaf

I was the first of our group of four to get to get to the customs desk in Toronto. I handed the officer my declaration form and passport. He looked at the section where I marked that the main purpose of my trip was business.

“What business do you have here?”

“Uh, academic conference.”

“Where is the conference?” he asked and looked at the 5 year old picture on my passport.

Downtown Toronto

“The Hilton. No, the Sheraton downtown,” I said.

“What’s the topic of the conference.”

I froze momentarily.

“Um, higher education and institutional research.”

He handed my documents back to me and waved me along to baggage claim.

I’ve attended a number of academic conferences during my graduate school career, but this was the first one in (a) a new city and (b) out of the country.

I got the business stuff done early on Monday. While Canadians were out celebrating Victoria Day, my colleagues and I presented a paper on graduate students in science and their relationships with their advisors, faculty, lab mates and other peers. That went well, and thankfully I had a good public speaking day. Even better, our PI/my advisor liked the presentation.

I didn't go inside. Entrance was about $20 and I didn't have much time.

I spent the rest of my short trip eating through my per diem, running along Lake Ontario, biking from downtown to High Park and back along the lake front, and hanging out with new/old grad school friends. I wish I had some photos from the parks along the lake and during my bike ride, but I’m much more concerned about my safety biking through a busy, unfamiliar street to whip out my camera. And I never take my camera out with my while running. It’s too bulky and I’m too busy, you know, running.

I’d love to go back to Toronto when the weather isn’t so finicky (it was warm/sunny, and then cool with light rain everyday) and I have more time to visit. We were really close to the Rogers Centre, where the Blue Jays play, but the team was out of town. If they weren’t, I’d definitely have gone to a game. I also remembered on my last day and last few hours of sightseeing that the Scott Pilgrim graphic novels are set in Toronto. When I visited the Baldwin Steps and Casa Loma, both felt familiar. I kicked myself for not doing a Scott Pilgrim tour of the city. Oh well.

Seemed like a nice place to write or chill

Ever since my friends and I got pulled aside and grilled by US customs agents as we returned from Vancouver, I get nervous crossing the border or going through customs at the airport. This time I worried they wouldn’t think I was the same person in my passport photo since (a) that photo is from 2005; and (b) I look much different. Fortunately, the US Customs agents asked fewer questions and I had no trouble getting back in to the states.

Haiku: from Toronto, Ontario to Ontario, California

The sorta familiar Baldwin Steps

05.23.11
Smooth presentation
Positive feedback from boss
Surprised us a bit

05.24.11
Biked through Toronto
Downtown to High Park and back
My quads will hate me

05.25.11
Steps feel familiar
Where have I seen them before?
I know! Scott Pilgrim!

05.26.11
Bio professor’s
Lecture on sex differences
Makes frosh laugh a lot

05.27.11
Zvi works out tension
Instant relief, but he warns
Tomorrow, soreness

05.28.11
Slow, tentative steps
From an almost one year old
Time to baby proof

05.29.11
Party in the park
Kids jump in bouncy castle
Birthday girl takes nap

Haiku: haven’t quit yet

Mosqueda kids '11

05.16.11
Sees old friend on bus
But he doubts if really her
This girl’s much thinner

05.17.11
Three hundred students
Present their research posters
Grow as scientists

05.18.11
Practice baton pass
With higher ed relay team
Place in palm, don’t drop!

05.19.11
Annual relay race
Closer than expected
Yellow team takes first

05.20.11
First venue visit
Pro: large enough for our group
Con: can’t bring our booze

05.21.11
Danny, clad in white,
Earns culinary degree
We’ll call him chef now

05.22.11
Waving maple leaf
Greets Toronto visitors
Hello, Canada

Chef Danny

Danny

When Danny first told me he was enrolling in culinary school, I was a bit confused. ‘Since when were you in to cooking?’ I wondered. I may have rarely seen him cook, but he had worked in the food service industry for a few years as a server at a chain restaurant. Culinary school wasn’t too far off from his interest.

Over the next 15 months, I didn’t see Danny as much as I was used to and when I did see him, it was for a few minutes. He was busy with classes every night of the week, studying and holding down a job at a restaurant. I flipped through his huge books occasionally. I ate the food he prepared. Whether a tuna melt neatly plated, spicy chilaquiles or a colorful fruit tart, it was all delicious.

A few weeks ago, he informed me that he would be graduating. We sent an invite to the family and included the photo above. I really like it.

Yesterday morning, my family gathered at Santa Anita Park to attend Danny’s graduation ceremony from Le Cordon Bleu Culinary Arts College-Los Angeles. Afterward we had a reception at the house. Danny cooked with help from my mom. The food was made with a lot of love.

My family

Congratulations, Danny! The whole familia is proud of you.

HEOC 4×400 relay: TMAC vs Bees Knees

Team T-MAC aka The Most Athletic Champions

This relay with my ed school people is gonna kick my ass. I’m not a sprinter.

That’s what I tweeted after the first practice with my relay team five weeks ago. I don’t have even a fraction of the speed of some other really fast Mexicans like Leonel Manzano and Ana Guevara. The other women on my team, Ashley and Tanya easily outran me. And of course I was slower than Marc, the one guy on our team. I didn’t feel too good about my chances of running a relay and not making a fool of myself.

Still, I didn’t back out. I liked my speed workouts on the track. At the practices, we did a mix of workouts: sprints of varying distances with recovery jogs or walks; hills; running the stadium stairs; and practiced passing the baton. We even got some unsolicited advice from a man training at professional level on how the “pros” pass the baton.

As I tried my best to become speedier, I also got to know my team, T-MAC. They reminded me of what it was like to be a first or second year in the program and prepare for exams. They were also pretty cool and I’m glad I got to know them. The race was definitely a good way to build community within the program.

The relay was held this afternoon at UCLA’s Drake Stadium track. When I arrived after work, a bunch of HEOC folks were already out to watch the competition between T-MAC (in purple t-shirts) and the Bees Knees (in yellow, of course).

Team Bees Knees (the winners)

The race was fun and challenging. The lineup:

T-MAC:
Ashley
Tanya
Cindy
Marc

Bees Knees:
Hannah
Gina
Dayna
Chris

Our first two runners would be slower than their first two. We knew this going in to the race. Marc reminded me before we started that we’d behind when Tanya passed off the baton and my job was to catch Dayna. Ashely and Tanya gave it their all. Tanya is slower than Gina, but she kept pace with her so we didn’t lose ground there. Still, we were behind and once Tanya passed the baton to me I had a lot of ground to make up. I tried to catch Dayna, but never did. I did close the substantial gap and was a few steps behind her when I passed off the baton to Marc. The last leg between Marc and Chris was the closest. They were pretty well matched in speed, but Marc couldn’t make up Chris’ small lead. Bees Knees won by a couple of seconds making for a pretty exciting finish.

Taking the baton from Tanya to run the 3rd leg

I was a little bummed about the loss and that I couldn’t catch Dayna. From the photo timestamps, she had about a 17 second lead. I know I could have started faster and pushed harder. I’m more bummed that we didn’t time our splits. I’m pretty sure we all ran faster than we did in practice.

After the race, we were awarded silver beads. The Bees Knees got gold. Then we went off to enjoy a free happy hour and greasy bar food in Westwood. Fun times.

I’m still no sprinter, but at least I didn’t make a fool of myself out there. Now, back to long and easy runs with occasional speed work at the track.

Super 12 encounter

Cindy, Eligio & Irvin

During yesterday’s bus ride home, I was engrossed in a game of Ms. Pac-Man (because I’m a feminist and stuff) and a podcast when a young man took a seat in front of me. I looked up. He was looking at me like he knew me.

He smiled waiting for me to recognize him.

“Cindy? It’s Irvin.”

“Oh, I know… I recognize you.” He hadn’t changed much, he looked almost exactly as he did 9 years ago (he’s the one without the hat above).

I didn’t sound as enthusiastic as I should have. I was a bit confused and out of it. I really need a nap. I stopped my game and podcast and greeted him.

I met Irvin ten years ago at school and quickly became friends. Unfortunately, we lost touch over the years. I don’t remember the last time I saw him, but he asked if I was still dating a guy who lived in San Francisco. Um, no. That ended in 2002. I knew I’d seen him more recently maybe 4-5 years ago, but we just probably hadn’t talked about dating so he just remembered the SF guy.

“I saw you when you got on, but I didn’t know it was you at first. You look… uh, different.”

I knew what Irvin was trying to say. He was trying to say “wow, you lost a lot of weight” without seeming crass or rude. Totally understandable, it’s a sensitive subject for a lot of people and when people have noted it in the past it’s made me uncomfortable and even offended. Usually, people are complimentary and sincere.

Irvin was one of those, which is no surprise since he’s always been kind and friendly.

“You lost weight, right?”

“Yeah.”

We caught up about work, school, how I met my fiance and Irvin’s recent move back to the westside. I suggested we grab lunch while on campus.

“We should. I already added you on Facebook,” he replied, somewhat bashful.

“Really? On your phone?”

“Yeah. When I saw you I didn’t want to say hi without being sure. So I looked you up to see if I could find a more recent picture. I didn’t want to look crazy.”

I’m thankful for smart phones — despite refusing to get one — and that we could reconnect, albeit briefly.

I’ve had people doubt I’m the person I know or the one in the photo ID, but at least something good came out of this experience.

Pasadena Half Marathon race report (PR!)

Set a PR at the Pasadena half marathon

The short…
I ran the Pasadena Half Marathon in 1:58:32. I met my A goal as well as a fitness goal I’d set at the beginning of the year to run a sub-2 hour half marathon. I set a PR, besting my previous half marathon time by 5 minutes. Oh, and did I mention it rained?

Time To Start Running

The long…
I’m beginning to doubt my LA weather bragging rights. Most days here are perfect, but that must exclude the days I’m scheduled to run a marathon or half marathon. The weather reports predicted a 10% chance of rain in LA and Pasadena… 10% my ass.

Sean and I left my apartment shortly before 5 am and it was already raining. It rained the whole 25-minute drive to Pasadena, but once at Pasadena City College (start/finish) it was dry with threatening clouds. The rain didn’t start again until 6:27ish, a few minutes before we began running. I didn’t bother complaining and could only hope the rain would remain light and I would come away with non-bloody ankles and a non-chafed up sports bra line.

This is the 3rd annual year of the Pasadena Marathon (plus half, 5K, 10K and bike race). I’ve heard it rains every year. Maybe this race should be held on January 1st. It almost never rains for the Rose Parade.[1]

Back to the race. It’s small compared to my previous half marathon/marathon experience. Less than 4,000 people finished either distance. There are a few thousand more participating in the 5K, 10K and bicycle races. I don’t know how many started the full or half. There were no pacers, corrals or even announcements reminding slower runners and walkers to line up toward the back. I had to run around several walkers in the first mile before the crowding thinned out.

I felt good through the whole race. The first 5K was on a slight decline through residential neighborhoods and then Cal Tech where I saw Boondocks creator Aaron McGruder speak years ago. I tried to avoid checking my watch in the first few miles. I was running at a comfortable pace, but knew it was faster than usual. I worried that if I knew my pace, I’d want to slow down and heed the usual advice to start conservatively. I wanted to run hard on the downhill/flat miles knowing I’d need that time to make up for what I expected to lose on the hills in the second half. I finished the first 5K in 27:16.

Right around this time, I saw a man drive by slowly on the opposite side of the street. He was flipping us off. I was befuddled by that. What did we do? Later I figured he was probably held up for several minutes at an intersection by a traffic cop before he was allowed to cross. I saw cars lined 10 deep at some intersections, but never saw them allowed to cross. Sean told me he saw the traffic officers allow cars to pass and that some runners had to stop. I’m glad I wasn’t one of those affected. I would have been pissed.

Between Miles 3 and 4

Speaking of Sean, he did a great job cheering/taking pictures. I saw him as we turned in to Old Town Pasadena around mile 4. He was one of the few spectators out on the course with his silly “you’re running a marathon, ha ha!” sign. From mile 4, he cut straight up north to mile 10 to cheer me on there. Major props to him. With the rain, I might have just gone back to the car and waited until shortly before 8:30 to catch me at the finish line.

I kept up the pace and hit the 10K mark at 54:40. My strategy was working and I was running consistent splits (see below). I felt confident going into the hills south of the Rose Bowl.[2]

At the Rose Bowl we do a quick turn around before turning up into the hills which go from miles 8 through 10 or so. It was here that I found some unexpected motivation. I saw a straggler from the bike race ahead of me. His shorts were sagging too low. It wasn’t pretty and I knew I needed to pass him quick. It helped me start the climb up to mile 10 with some ganas. Despite this, I slowed down as expected. I recalled Laura’s advice to lean in to the hills and thought about the hill repeats I ran with my relay team (more on that later). I took a short water break under the 210 overpass after cresting the most significant hill on the course.

Between Miles 10 and 11

I found Sean again at mile 10, giving me another boost. I took my second Gu Roctane[3] here too and focused on running hard. The last 3 miles weren’t as easy as I expected them to be. There were still a few short hills. When I got the chance to run downhill, I pushed harder. I knew I was on pace to meet my A goal and finish under 2 hours. Just like in Long Beach, Rilo Kiley’s With Arms Outstretched played on the iPod Shuffle and pumped me up/made me feel a little emotional.

I finished in 1:58:32. I met my A goal and set a 5 minute PR. I guess the 3135 bib number was a good sign.

I’m blaming that one second that kept me from a 31 on the walkers finishing the 5K or 10K (which started at 7:30). We were all in the same finish chute which made it rather crowded.

Finish line support was sub-par. I was surprised not to get a goodie bag of food or space blanket, especially considering the rain and cool temperatures (50s). The tables with banana slices, orange slices and bagels were crowded. There were no water bottles handed out, only dixie cups.

I waited another 15 minutes before I found Sean. He had to walk a few miles back to the finish line. I was cold and kind of miserable. I wanted to walk around to keep my calves from cramping up, but didn’t want to miss Sean at our meet-up spot. Eventually, he showed up to the Zico coconut water booth. We left soon after. I wanted to say hi to Chispa before or after the race, but we missed each other and both wanted to get dry and warm as soon as possible. She had a good race despite having a cold and sucking on a cough drop most of the race.

As we left Pasadena City College, the sun started to peek out from clouds. By noon, only a few clouds remained in a mostly clear sky. At least the rain didn’t keep me from a PR.

THE STATS
Finish time: 1:58:32 (chip); 1:59:03 (gun)
Pace: 9:03
5K split: 27:16 (8:47 pace)
10K split: 54:40 (8:48 pace)
Fuel: Gu Roctane every 45 minutes, water at ~4 stops, Ultima sports drink at one stop; pre-race – coffee, half a banana, and a slice of peanut butter toast

SPLITS
1… 8:43
2… 8:43
3… 8:53
4… 8:53
5… 8:41
6… 8:46
7… 8:43
8… 9:05 (hills start here)
9… 9:53 (water stop)
10.. 9:42
11.. 9:31
12.. 8:26 (brought to you by Rilo Kiley)
13.. 8:50
14.. 1:41 (0.21 mile, I tried my best to run the tangents)

Notes:
[1] I marched in the 1999 Rose Parade with the UCLA Band.
[2] It’s been over 11 years since I’ve been to the Rose Bowl. I haven’t been to a game since my UCLA band days.
[3] GU is great while I run. Post-race it makes me feel pretty gross and keeps me from napping thanks to the caffeine.

Haiku: watermelon, weddings & water-logged running shoes

05.09.11
Furious coughing fit
Caused by watermelon chunk
‘Please don’t die,’ boss says

05.10.11
Four hundred foot climb
To Baldwin Hills Overlook
Worth amazing view

05.11.11
Read advisor’s notes
On dissertation chapter two
I’m on the right track

05.12.11
World’s last man standing
Decides that he wants to live,
Find girlfriend, save world

05.13.11
Sense of direction
Isn’t working in East Los
Need to visit more

05.14.11
Read wedding websites
Eyes bug out at total costs
Eloping looks good

05.15.11
Sub two hour half
Run on Pasadena streets
Rain didn’t slow me

It’s gotta be a good sign, right?

I was stoked to see that my bib number started with a 31

I have no superstitions about bib numbers. However, I have hoped for a 31 in my bib numbers since my first race. It’s never happened, closed I’ve been was 33 (339 for a 10K in November and 5339 at the LA Marathon). When I went to the expo yesterday and stopped by the table to find out my number, I was surprised to see what I’d been assigned.

My 31-loving heart was quite happy. It’s almost as cool as placing 31st at a 5K last month. (It was a very small field, about 80 people.)

Pasadena Half Marathon goals

I’m running the Pasadena half marathon on Sunday. It’ll be my second time tackling the half marathon distance in a race. I’m not nervous like I was in October. I know I can run 13.1 miles, but can I beat my time from October and set a personal record? Maybe. The courses are much different. Long Beach is a fast and flat course along the ocean. We were blessed that day with perfect running weather and I easily finished under my goal time of 2:06. In fact, I was a little surprised that 2:03 came so easy.

Of course, Pasadena will be different. The course has some hills (all of miles 8 through 10 are uphill) and the weather is unpredictable. Sometimes May mornings can be cool hovering in the mid 60s with the marine layer providing some relief from the sun. Or they can be like last week, sunny with temperatures reaching the high 80s. And that’s in West LA. Pasadena sits at the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains and is always warmer. It looks like Pasadena will be on the cooler side (high 60s), and maybe a little cloudy.

The course isn’t the only thing that’s different. I gained a lot in training for the LA Marathon. The distance seems like an easy run and I know I can go longer. I know how I need to fuel and hydrate to prevent from fading in the later miles. I’ve done weekly speed work on the track and tempo runs. I run lots of hills. I’ve run my goal pace on a hilly course… at least for a 10K.

I should be able to meet my goals. I can do this.

A: finish under 2 hours

B: finish under 2:03 and set a personal record

C: finish under 2:05

My good friend Chispa will also be running. She was injured after her first half marathon in October and took some time off. I hope she has a strong race!