Marathon Life

Monday, September 28, 2009

We all scream for iCream in Chicago

Last week while in Chicago for a tradeshow, I stumbled upon a very cool ice cream shop called iCream Cafe. I already knew that Wicker Park was a pretty vibrant and eclectic neighborhood to visit. I went to Wicker Park on my first night there not even realizing iCream was around the corner from where I ate. So the next night I searched online for an ice cream place in that area and saw iCream listed.

From the moment I walked in I fell in love. At first, I was a bit overwhelmed with all options. It's hard for me to make a decision, especially with an overload of options. The owner was actually behind the counter and explained the process to me. Basically you choose two flavors (from a selection of 29) to mix and you can add a topping for extra. They have low fat, no-fat, full-fat, sugar-free and dairy free ice cream and frozen yogurt, as well as selection of sorbets and even hot pudding!

Everything is made directly in front of you with LIQUID NITROGEN! Yes, that is correct. The photo above shows how they make it. There is a tank and tubes that come down fill the nitrogen into a mixer that looks like a cake mixer. I chose the non-fat chocolate and almond with graham cracker crust mixed in. You can request food coloring to be added as well. So if you want "blue" vanilla you can!

iCream Co-founder Cora Shaw told me she wanted to open a place where "the kid who is lactose intolerant can have options." After getting her MBA in 2007, she used her great business insight and ideas and opened iCream in 2008 and isn't looking back. It's great to see someone going the non-corporate route after business school. The place is so popular that people in Chicago are demanding other locations to open. Also, people have inquired about franchising her store around the country. Yes, it is that good. It is that unique. I have never seen anything like this before.

I told her that she should open a location in SoCal as we love our yogurt here. It seems there is a different Pinkberry knock-off chain on every street corner. I can never look at Pinkberry the same again. Actually I avoid Pinkberry as much as possible and usually just go to the independent yogurt shops. I was so inspired when I left. Maybe someday I will own my own iCream chain.  I will definitely be back next time I am in Chicago.

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posted by Anthony at 11:14 PM 0 comments

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Getting sick, Chicago trip, lack of running

I first got that feeling in my throat last Thursday afternoon. I knew this feeling. It's so familiar. A sore throat was approaching. It's always the same cycle when I get sick. I first get a sore throat for about a day. Then I get stuffed up. On the third day or so I then cough up a green slime substance (not pretty). Then it everything turns clear. Then I'm not sick anymore. This happens the EXACT SAME WAY each time.

I was glad the sore throat didn't last long. Thank GOD for the invention of Cepacol's Dual Relief spray. Just one spray will numb your throat for several hours. After initial discomfort, the numbing begins. You are only supposed to spray it once, but sometimes I like to live on the edge and do it twice. It comes in handy at 4AM when you wake up with the feeling that someone is stabbing your throat from the inside out. I wish you could just spray out all the bacteria at once. Maybe someday they will invent something like that - just kill it all. I did take plenty of Emergen-C as well, which I swear by. I used to promote for them for 3 years so I have tons of samples still. It's a vitamin C powder that fizzes when you mix it with water. There are also B vitamins and other minerals in it that give you energy.

I knew I would get sick since I wasn't getting enough sleep on my DC conference trip. The 3-hour time zone change killed me. I think since I never got a chance to adjust. I only got to sleep late one day and then I was up at 7AM (4AM PST) for the next two days. Not a good combination for staying healthy.

I am in Chicago for a tradeshow right now until Sept 24 (Thurs). Miraculously, today I didn't feel as sick. Stay tuned for a review an ice cream place called iCream Cafe, located in the always cool and hip Wicker Park neighborhood.

Given my sickness I only ended up running twice this week. I ran over 7 miles last Saturday even though I wasn't feeling too great. I ended up getting a fever and my head felt like it was going to explode afterwards. Below is my pitiful log:
Min/ Mile
HR Max
HR Ave
Sept 16, 2009
I ran briefly on the treadmill at the gym. I wanted to do 4 but only had time for 2 and I just wasn't feeling it. I am ashamed. I didn't even wear the HR monitor.
Sept 19, 2009
I ran to Corona Del Mar and back. It was sunny and not too hot. I was sick so this run didn't feel the best. I ran slower than normal. My HR was way up but I think it was a misreading.
181 (97%)
week ending Sept 20, 2009
Bad week, I was sick and traveling. I was disappointed. I will have to postpone my half marathon plans to the Silver Strand down in Coronado in mid-Nov. There's no way I can run competitively at the Long Beach half marathon on Oct 11. It's ok, it gives me another month to get my ass in gear.

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posted by Anthony at 9:35 PM 0 comments

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Running tally ending Sept 13, 2009


This week I only ran 3 times. It was pretty busy with J*** in town and I had PT one night, worked late on multiple occasions. This doesn't equate a solid running total. I really wanted to do 4 days of running and barely fit in 3. I did the gym one night though.

Below is what I did last week.

DateTimeMileageMin/ MileNotesHR MaxHR Ave
Sept 8, 200941:106.006:51I did the Back Bay with J** one last time before he left. I ran pretty strong. I really pushed it up the steep hill on the last stretch.HR monitor was not reading at all. Need to replace battery in the strap. ------
Sept 11, 200928:134.007:04I ran off Balboa Island and up to Irvine Terrace Park and back. Boring. I hate running on mostly concrete. Not enough light or time to do a decent run tonight. I started at 7:35pm, it was already dark.173 (92%)151
Sept 13, 200946:026.696:52I ran in the DC area around 10:30am. It was in the upper 70s, not totally ideal but not as humid as I thought it would be. I ran along the Potomac River through old town Alexandria. Here for a conference. I could have done 8 but was short on time since I had to meet someone for lunch. Time zone change after the first night is rough. I was up until 3am and slept until around 9:45am. I was hoping to start my run an hour earlier.
week ending Sept 13, 2009---16.69---I wanted to run more than 20 but it was too busy this week. Probably best to rest more. Next week should be better although I am traveling until Tuesday night so may not get the best miles in. ---153 (82%)
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posted by Anthony at 9:52 PM 0 comments

Alexandria, Georgetown & DC conference trip

I'm in the DC area for a few days for a marketing conference. I got here last night and I'm staying with my friend Anh, who I met way back in 1998 on the David Wu for Congress campaign in Portland, OR. Those were the days, both of us were in our early 20s with lots and lots of drama in our lives. Fast forward 11 years and most of that drama is gone (for us both). Now she and her husband Craig have a nice townhouse located about a mile from the Metro, or as I like to call it, the T. I'm from Boston so whenever there is a subway I just call it "the T" even though it may be called "the Metro", "the L" or just "the subway".

Anh is a coffee obsessed person like I am. Although she craves the caffeine in addition to the taste of coffee. I just enjoy the taste of coffee only. I try to only drink decaf, but when traveling, especially to conferences and on vacation, I will drink caffeinated. Being a native of the Pacific Northwest (Portland, OR), Anh recently went home for a visit and got this incredible coffee from Stumptown Coffee Roasters. We ground some of the Hair Bender and I did a French press. It was so good. I think it made me a bit too hyper as I was blabbing a lot when I was at the conference. On the right is all of Anh's coffee and coffee brewing devices.

Last night we went to a cool little restaurant called Rustico, which is about a 2 min walk from her place. We ordered the Greek Pie pizza. It's basically a Greek salad on top of a nice thick crust. Featuring hummus, chopped romaine, olives, cucumbers, tomatoes and a feta-oregano vinaigrette dressing, it was delicious. It wasn't too heavy, which most pizzas I have experienced tend to be. Actually I enjoy pizzas with very little cheese. I just love topping and sauce. The photo on the left is a very unique mosaic wall inside the restaurant where mugs are actually cemented to it. It's directly behind the wood fire oven. Very cool.

Anh and I are famous for our sweet teeth, so we had to get dessert. We headed across the street to the Buzz Bakery Coffee & Lounge. I had a craving for a red velvet cupcake. Anh had the carrot cake one. Both had a nice cream cheese frosting with chocolate curls on top. We also grabbed some almond biscotti to go to have with our French pressed coffee the next day. I really loved the vibe there and this was exactly the kind of place I want to open someday. I don't know when but I will own a cafe at some point in the next 10 years.

I met up with my cousin this afternoon for lunch in the Georgetown area. After she dropped me off I walked around the streets and enjoyed a coffee at Dean & Deluca. You order coffee outside and inside is the actual store with a deli counter, baked goods and other groceries. I wish SoCal had a Dean & Deluca. I would go every week, although it can be kind of expensive. I would probably just get chocolate or coffee there only. Maybe a biscotti. Their cookies are amazing too.

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posted by Anthony at 7:06 PM 0 comments

Thursday, September 10, 2009

My health care battle continues with Anthem

It's so ironic that on the same day as President Obama's speech to the nation about health care reform, I was on the phone YET AGAIN with Anthem Blue Cross concerning the overage charges associated with my June 9 emergency appendectomy in NYC. I filed a grievance with Anthem in early July (see old post here) and I WON (see my older Aug 9 post here for more info). The charges that were a result of overages since the hospital I went to in NYC for this emergency surgery chose a surgeon who was out of network. Since I had no options to choose an in-network physician for this emergency surgery, I knew I would come out victorious.  As it turned out, Anthem said the surgeon was in-network after all (although it's still a mystery to me how). I received a letter stating that the overages would be written off.  I was both thrilled and relieved this happened. I really didn't feel like spending an additional $1200 on top of the $250 hospital admittance co-pay.

Unfortunately Anthem has not written off those charges yet. The first time I called they told me that it would take 14 days for the credits to appear from the award letter date. I would then receive a revised explanation of benefits.  The award letter was dated July 27, so you would think it would be taken care of by now. Surprise, surprise, it hasn't yet.  I called again on Aug 25 to check in about the credit/write-off, and was told it would take another 2 weeks. So I called yet again yesterday. I was told that it was held up in processing and that they would submit it again since the first time they submitted it didn't go through. So I have to wait another 2-3 weeks to see if it gets credited properly. And I will call them yet again. I will torment them until this gets resolved.

Why do I have to oversee Anthem's claims dept? Why do I have to constantly monitor their actions to see if they are performed correctly? Am I employed at Anthem as a quality assurance supervisor? I certainly am not. Do they even have such people who work there? It sure doesn't seem like it. Is it the people that work there who are the problem or is it the system? 

Here's my theory.  This is a game the insurance companies play with insureds in order to optimize profit margins. They purposely stall credits, payments and such until the insured gives up out of sheer frustration. They don't count on people calling in to try to correct THEIR mistakes like I do. I am the exception to the rule. I learned this behavior from my mother, who has had her share of insurance company battles over the years dealing with my late father's heart operations and other issues. I am holding Anthem accountable and have a letter stating that they would be writing those charges off. Those are the facts, plain and simple.

Unlike the 46.3 millions of Americans without health insurance, I am one of the lucky ones who actually does have coverage, yet I struggle for fairness. Actually my plan is quite nice aside from this particular situation. I can choose any doctor to see who is in the network and it costs only $20 each time. If I see a specialist like I did for my calf injury, it's only $25 per visit. Also, I have been going to physical therapy for the last 4 weeks at $20 a session. Not bad.

Why can't there be a plan that properly covers people if they have to use medical services not in their home city or state? Why does it have to be such a struggle to obtain affordable coverage in these types of situations? Isn't that the whole point of having insurance in the first place? Americans want peace of mind from insurance. Now, when I travel I don't have that secure feeling. I worry about the next freak incident that is going to cause me hours on the phone with Anthem, trying to correct their mistakes.

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posted by Anthony at 4:57 PM 0 comments

Monday, September 07, 2009

Moving yet again...running tally ending Sept 6

I have been searching on Craigslist for about 3 weeks now for a new place to live since I won't be able to stay in my current place on Balboa Island. I finally found a place. Click here to see my previous post about the trials and tribulations of roommate searching on Craigslist. I ended up finding a place in Costa Mesa that is right on the Newport Beach line about 1.7 miles from the coast. I will share a 3BD/2BA condo townhouse with 2 other girls in their 20s. I really wanted to be within 2-3 miles from the beach so at least I got that wish.  It was only $50 more than my current apt so I was relatively satisfied. This will be my 8th apt I have rented since 1999. The photo on the left is one I took on the Balboa Peninsula last weekend.

This Oct 1 move means my time on Balboa Island is coming to a close. It has been a nice 4+ months living on this cute little coastal island community of Newport Beach. I will miss it a lot but it's still a 10 min drive away. Actually my new place is so much more convenient to stores, restaurants, my 24 Hour Fitness gym, etc. Trader Joe's will only be a half mile away. It's in this area called Triangle Square, which has many cool shops, cafes and restaurants. Despite the negative reviews of this area on Yelp, I actually like the area.

J** and I are having a good time so far while he visits. The night he arrived we took the Balboa Island Ferry out to the peninsula to get $1 tacos at Great Mex. Then on Friday night we went down to San Diego to visit and stay with my friend Ryan. We went to Babycakes in Hillcrest to eat some of their very scrumptious and MOIST cupcakes. Since we wanted to prevent the sugar-induced comas I so frequently get after having sweets in the evening, J** and I split a pistachio one. They also have other flavors called "White Bottom" and "Black Bottom". Hmm, why would a place owned by gays name those cupcakes as such? I wonder... Anyway, the cupcakes are really, really good and they truly are moist, I'm not joking. Most have some kind of a filling inside. Ryan had a blueberry one with a blueberry jam inside. They also have other flavors like Blood Orange, Mango and Pomegranate. I'm so glad they have stayed in business for over a year. I haven't tried the actual cakes yet, but I am sure they are just as good. Babycakes also has plenty of brownies and cookies, along with a wide selection of beer and wine. This space used to be the former location of David's Coffeehouse.

On Saturday we went down to Coronado for a few hours. I always enjoy that beach with its very fine white sand. It feels so good under my feet. I didn't bring my boogie board but still managed to body surf in the 2-3 foot waves. The waves weren't too intimidating, but I did get sand and water in my ears/nose since it's hard to stay above water without a board while surfing. The beach we went to was about a half mile south of the Hotel del Coronado.

After a few hours at the beach we walked along Orange Avenue (the main drag) and stopped at Panera Bread for something to eat. Then we went to Stretch's Cafe for some soft serve vanilla yogurt. It was so good and very inexpensive. A medium cup is only $2.65 and they give you a lot. J** and I split a cup. If we had known that they also have sandwiches there we would have just gone there to eat. The last time I was at Stretch's was a few years ago. I only noticed the yogurt, but maybe I wasn't paying attention in my frozen yogurt craze.

Yesterday we went back over to the Balboa Peninsula to lay out at the beach and this time I brought my boogie board only to find out that the waves were SO SMALL. I couldn't believe that this was the same beach that featured the 20-foot waves back in July. There were a few 3 foot high waves that I did surf, but it was nothing.


This week I tried running on consecutive days. I pushed the pace a few times as well. The calf still feels the same, not better, not worse. I had PT once on Tuesday before J** came into town later that night. Normally I would do it twice. I will go next week one time. I may not need it anymore.

Below is what I did last week.

DateTimeMileageMin/ MileNotesHR MaxHR Ave
Aug 31, 200937:035.326:57I did the Back Bay again. It was twilight and I ended this run in the dark. It was kind of cool to run at this time of day. The dunes and marshes glowed. ---153 (82%)
Sept 2, 200941.036.046:47I ran with J** at Back Bay again. This time I was really able to push it. My calf felt ok. It's always the first mile that feels weird. My hamstring was a little sore but I think I will always have to deal with that. 171 (91%)157
Sept 5, 200917:122.56:52I was in San Diego and was going to do 6-7 miles today but cut it short due to running too late in the AM (11am). I decided to do a short run due to the heat and see how my calf feels running on consecutive days. No HR monitor since I forgot it in Newport. ------
Sept 6, 200941:306.166:44I ran Back Bay again but in the direction of UC Irvine. It was mostly flat and the breeze was nice. It was very sunny though, so by the end I was getting hot. Temps were in the upper 70s, we started around 11am. It would have been better to start at 9am, but my tired ass was just getting out of bed. 174
week ending Sept 6, 2009---20.02---I'm glad I reached 20 miles for once. I think this week I really tried to push the pace on a few runs. Perhaps I should have ran slower, but I need to stay in good condition if I am going to do a half marathon in 5-6 weeks time in Long Beach.The plan next week is to run 4 days and also do 9 miles. I am traveling to DC for a conference on Saturday so maybe on Friday I will do the longer run. 172 (92%)
155 (83%)

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posted by Anthony at 9:33 AM 0 comments

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