The City of Angels

This past weekend, I flew to LA to run the Rock n Roll LA Halloween half marathon. I’d won a free entry to the event months ago, back when I still lived in LA, and it seemed like a perfect excuse to visit one of my favorite places, see old friends, and try a new race distance.

I flew from O’Hare to LAX Friday morning. I was excited to be back, but Friday was a rough day: tired, hungry, shattered my phone screen and cut my ankle on a screen door. The only redeeming part of Friday was visiting my favorite Mexican place near campus.

Tacos don’t fix everything, but they certainly help.

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Fortunately, things improved on Saturday. I started off the morning with a 4 mile recovery run in South Pasadena with my old running group, the Pasadena Pacers. Joining the Pacers when I first started running absolutely changed my life, and it was wonderful to see everyone again. I cannot imagine a more supportive, enthusiastic crew to run with. After my run, I dropped by the Caltech gym to practice my cleans. It was nice to be back in my old haunt, and even nicer to see that I’ve gotten stronger since the last time I was there.

After my workout, I went to Berry Bowl in Highland Park and picked up an acai bowl with spinach, bananas, peanut butter, blueberries, strawberries, and hemp protein for breakfast. I’m not sure it is healthy to eat that many servings of fruit and that much sugar in one sitting, but it felt healthy. And isn’t that the important thing? (No. No it is not.)

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Next, I headed over to the LA Convention Center to pick up my bib and technical shirt for the Sunday morning race. Then spent the afternoon walking through downtown LA from the Staples Center to the Wilshire Ebell Theater, which took me straight through Koreatown along Olympic Boulevard.

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Despite the 90-degree heat, I had an awesome time exploring K-Town. I had naengmyun (랭면) at Surawon, a Mexican restaurant-turned-Korean noodle shop that was decent but not worth revisiting, and a misugaru (미숫가루) smoothie from Francaise Bakery. I had no idea how big K-Town is in LA – there were entire blocks that looked like they were lifted directly from Korea (maybe not Seoul, but a smaller, older city like Gurye.)

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Eventually, I made my way over to the Ebell for a dharma talk by monastics from Plum Village, a mindfulness practice center in France founded by Vietnamese Zen monk Thich Nhat Hanh. My favorite part of the event, and my favorite part of visiting Deer Park Monastery, was the singing. The songs are so simple and sweet, filling you up with peace and joy. (Yes, I recognize how stupid that sounds. #sorrynotsorry)

After the talk, I had dinner and caught up with a good friend, then went to bed early.

I was up at 5:00am Sunday to get ready for the race. Apparently I did a terrible job prepping because I realized as soon as I parked downtown that I had forgotten my GPS watch. For about 10 seconds, I was mad at myself – how am I going to run my fastest race if I have no idea what my pace is? Then I remembered that I don’t run because I’m fast or competitive. I run because I love it. So forgetting my watch was actually a blessing in disguise, a perfect excuse to run happy.

The race was so much fun! This was my first official, chip-timed half marathon and I absolutely loved it. The distance is perfect for me right now: long enough that I feel like I’m working hard, but not so long that I need to worry about nutrition, hydration, what I’m wearing, and so on – all the drama that comes with marathon training. With a half, it’s just run and done.

I was fortunate to run with a seasoned marathoner (the kind of guy who is all lean muscle, runs half a dozen marathons per year, and has been running for over 30 years), who was pacing his friend. Though slightly slower than I would have done on my own, I’m glad I ran a consistent pace, finished strong, enjoyed the course, and set myself up to PR in my next half.

Because there will definitely be a next one.

After the race, I hung out with some of the other Pasadena Pacers at the finish line before heading to the Caltech gym for an upper body workout. I was super energized from the race and had this stupid idea that I should make myself equally sore all over. A few dozen push ups, toes-to-bar, and pull ups later, I was absolutely starving so I headed over to the SGV for XLBs.

Luscious Dumplings (hands-down the best XLBs in the city) was overflowing as always, so I scooted over to the less popular but still delicious Hui Tou Xiang. The service was shitty because 1) I’m not Chinese and 2) I was alone on a busy afternoon, but the dumplings were awesome. All’s well that ends in tasty dumplings, as the saying goes.

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After lunch, I headed over to The Huntington Library and Gardens in San Marino to take photos. I attempted to thoughtfully compose shots of fountains and flowers and picturesque landscapes while slowly falling asleep on my feet. I ended up passing out on the perfectly manicured lawn of the north vista. I should probably feel bad that I spent $21 on admission to the gardens and fell asleep…

But I don’t. It was a beautiful afternoon for napping, and a lovely way to wrap up a busy weekend.

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PS. You can find many of the Deer Park songs here: https://soundcloud.com/deer-park-monastery. My absolute favorite is “All In My Heart (Children’s Song).” Listen with a child’s heart and laugh at the silly lyrics. It’s a wonderful experience. -xoxo, A

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