Thursday, December 31, 2009

Last Run of the Year

1310 miles in 2009.  Not bad.  Although it would have been closer to 1500 if it weren't for this damn butt issue.  And judging from last night's 5-mile test run, I don't think it's going to go away anytime soon.

The run felt OK at first.  I did feel some achy joints, but it was mostly just the result of not running for 27 days.  Initially, I also felt some achiness in my right butt/hip.  I couldn't tell if this was related to my injury or not, but it eventually went away as I warmed up.

The first 3 or 4 miles went really well.  I was running with Mike and John, and although they were running pretty slowly, in retrospect it was probably a little fast for me on my first run back.  The last time I ran in the park, I started getting ankle pains around mile 2, and ended up jogging/walking the rest of a disappointing 4 miler.  So I considered it a success that I did not feel any ankle issue even up until I turned off at the 102nd Street transverse (3 miles).  Just to be safe, though, I slowed down for the last two miles.  Around West 86th Street, I did feel the tendinitis coming back in my ankle.  It wasn't so bad to be debilitating, but it was definitely noticeable.  I slowed down a little bit more, but never felt the need to walk.  Although it's disappointing that the issue is still there, I feel like I just need a few more weeks of taking it easy and my ankle will be back to normal.

The butt, though, is a different story.  My butt has never really bothered me while running; it's always afterwards or the next day that I feel the pain.  Well, after the run, we went to Big Nick's Burger and Pizza Joint (on 75th and Broadway) for dinner.  It was the first time I went to Big Nick's.  They have a massive 28 page menu, which includes everything from Greek food to burgers to pizza and more.  I got a chicken souvlaki pita (pictured below), which was pretty good. 

In contrast to their huge menu, though, the area inside Big Nick's is tiny.  As we were standing in the entryway waiting for our table, some of us had to exit the restaurant whenever someone needed to walk by.  They packed five of us into a table crammed into the back of a narrow room.  Needless to say, I didn't have much legroom.  Halfway through my chicken souvlaki, I was needing to stretch my legs, but felt like I was trapped in this tiny restaurant with nowhere to go.  By the time we paid our check, pain was running from my right butt almost down to my knee.  I was trying to discreetly massage my hamstring during dinner, but I couldn't get in deep enough.  I was glad to get up when we finally left.

As I slept last night, I woke up a few times feeling that the pain in my hamstring was still there.  And at work today, I've had to get up several times to stretch my legs.  It's disheartening, and I know this means I should take it easy.  But I still want to run.

Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Christmas and Kalbi

OK, I may have jumped the gun a little bit with my last post.  Yes, Dr. Gallina, the foot and ankle specialist, said that, as far as my ankle was concerned, I could start running.  But judging from some issues I've had last week, as well as a follow-up visit to Dr. Babiy's office today, I'm starting to wonder if I was being overly optimistic.

To recap, Dr. Gallina said that I probably just have a little tendinitis in my ankle, and that I could start running as soon as I wanted.  To be extra safe, and to let my butt issue recover a little more, I decided to get an extra week of rest during the Christmas holiday, and to return to running this Wednesday at the fun run. 

For Christmas, I went out to my parents' house, in San Jose, California.  Since I bought my ticket at the last minute, I ended up getting this awful connection in Phoenix.  Well, flight one landed about 25 minutes before flight two was scheduled to take off, and they were at two different terminals.  So as soon as I got off the first plant, I booked it from Terminal A to Terminal B--not super far, but far enough.  Well, by the time I reached Terminal B, I could already feel the tendinitis in my ankle acting up.  Not a good sign. 

And, the five hours of flying seemed to inflame my butt issue as well.  By the end of the first flight, my whole right leg was in agony.  And I continued to feel my butt soreness throughout the rest of the week.  The worst part was driving between my parents' house and my brother's house in Burlingame, about 45 minutes away.  Several times I had to brake with my left foot because my right leg--from the butt all the way down to the knee--was in so much pain and needed to be stretched out.  It was difficult to accept that I still hurt so much even after taking almost all of December off from running...

Today's visit to Dr. Babiy's office didn't help matters.  Dr. Babiy is on vacation, so I met with her colleague, Dr. Craig Feuerman instead.  Dr. Feuerman pretty much said that the ankle and the butt issue could both take months to recover from, and that I shouldn't be running in the meantime.  He acknowledged that Dr. Gallina said I could run, but that was just with respect to my ankle, and even then I should not keep running if I felt pain.  He agreed that the ankle was probably just tendinitis, and stated that I should be icing it frequently.  As for the butt, he thinks it's either a pulled hamstring, or a herniated disk.  As I mentioned here, a herniated disk is a frequent cause of sciatic pain, which may be the type of pain that I am experiencing.

I mentioned to him that Dr. Babiy performed an EMG, which showed no sciatic issue (and thus no herniated disk).  He noted that a negative EMG would not necessarily rule out a sciatic issue.  This is because an EMG is a "physiological" test--which shows whether I have symptoms of sciatica.  He contrasted this with an MRI, which he said was an "anatomical" test--which shows whether I actually have a herniated disk or not.  He said if I wanted to, I could get an MRI of my spine now to determine if I had a herniated disk.  Otherwise, I could wait a month or so to see of the pain subsided, and get an MRI in case it didn't then.  I of course opted to have one now because I am obsessive compulsive like that.  He also asked me if I wanted an oral steroid to help the inflammation go away.  I decided that sounded too scary and that I should pass.  Instead, I'll continue to take super doses of ibuprofen.  In the meantime, I continuing with physical therapy on both my butt and my ankle.

This whole process has made me feel really fortunate that I have health insurance.  I'm also glad I've found some doctors who are willing to perform tests to get to the bottom of what I have.  But still, it doesn't quite make up for the fact that I'm not able to run as much as I want to.

Speaking of running, so Dr. Feuerman told me not to run.  I guess this is against his orders, then, but I'm still planning on going to the fun run tomorrow.  I will take it very, very easy.  If I feel good, then I'll know that I can slowly but surely get better.  If I don't, then I'll know for sure that I just need more rest.  Keep your fingers crossed for me.

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I did a lot of eating when I went home for Christmas!  One of the more memorable meals was at the Palace BBQ Buffet in Sunnyvale, CA.  It was an all-you-can-eat Korean BBQ place.  For $12.99 per person at lunch, you get free reign over their raw meat bar, which includes kalbi (marinated beef short ribs sliced across the bone), lamb, chicken and pork, pig tongue, chicken gizzards, beef tripe, baby octopus, and and all sorts of other fun stuff.  And of course, there were all sorts of AYCE banchan too.  Yummmmm....

Here's a pic of one of the many plates of raw meat we got.  And a pic of my parents enjoying the BBQ'd goodness.

My brother and his wife had us over for Christmas dinner this year.  The picture below is just a tiny snippet of everything that they made.  Four salads: Japanese seaweed, mung bean sprouts, cucumber, and green papaya.  A fish ball and cucumber soup.  Sticky rice with Chinese sausage.  Green beans with pork.  Oysters two ways (raw, and steamed with black bean sauce).  And a few steamed dungeness crabs.  Oh, and a prime rib roast.  All very tasty.

Monday, December 21, 2009

"You should start running..."

Saw the foot and ankle specialist today, Dr. Jessica Gallina, and her words were music to my ears.  She looked at the MRI, which had shown a tear in my posterior tibial tendon, and did a clinical exam on my left ankle.  Because I was able to stand on my tiptoes and rotate my foot in and out with no pain, she concluded that I just had some tendonitis.  What showed up as a tear on the MRI was microscopic and could have been just some inflammation, or even an MRI "artifact" (which I think is like the equivalent of a fingerprint on the lens).  She did say, however, that the posterior tibial tendon is very important, as it holds the arch up in place, and that a tear or rupture would have been REALLY bad, possibly ending my running.  But since I have no problems with my arch, it's not really a concern.  I'm very glad.

Dr. Gallina also said that if I wanted, I could get some physical therapy on the ankle, or take some anti-inflammatories.  However, as far as she was concerned, I could start running, a little bit at first, and just build my way back up.  She told me to continue to be sure I wore my custom orthodics, as they will support the arch and therefore relieve stress on my posterior tibial tendon.  If, the pain persists, I'll go back to her and try out some other courses of treatment.  One idea she had was platelet rich plasma therapy (PRP)--a process where a small amount of my blood is drawn, and the growth-promoting platelets are collected and injected into the tendon in order to help with regeneration.  It sounds serious and high-tech, but she said she had the tools to do it right in her office.

In the end, I guess Dr. Gallina's diagnosis is the same as what Dr. Metzl said to me almost two months ago, that the ankle issue is not a big deal.  However, I feel much more comfortable with Dr. Gallina's diagnosis since she had the benefit of an MRI, and really took the time to examine and explain my condition.

These past few days and weeks have been really tough.  Online information about tears in the posterior tibial tendon seemed bleak.  Not being able to go to the Wednesday night fun runs left a gaping hole in my weekly routine.  And I gained about 10 pounds since the Chicago Marathon in October.  But I'm glad I've gotten such great support from my friends and I was happy to rediscover yoga.  Just to be safe, I'm going to wait another week or so, until after Christmas, to start running again. Although I still have some trouble sitting for long periods, my butt issue is getting better and hopefully by then I will be just about healed.  Until then, I'm really happy about the news today, and I'm getting excited to get back in my running shoes!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Six weeks off...

I have not run for two weeks now, and I learned this week that it's going to be quite a while longer.

Last Friday, I went back to Dr. Babiy.  The purpose of the visit was to look at the x-rays on my ankle and determine the next steps, as well as to get my electromyogram (EMG) on my butt.  The x-ray came back negative for a fracture.  However, it did show some signs of "cortical thickening," which I guess means that the outer layer of my tibia bone had grown thicker than usual.  She said this was probably the result of my running--as the muscles pull on the bone, they cause stress on it and make the cortex thicker.  She said this was probably not a huge deal, but told me to get an MRI just in case.

The EMG is a test used to record the electrical activity of muscles.  It can be used to detect muscle abnormalities, such as when there is a pinched nerve.  The purpose of the test was to see if I had problems with the sciatic nerve, since I had reported a "pins and needles" sensation to her.

The test was sort of like the rubber mallet reflex test that doctors do, only more high-tech, and much more painful.  The doctor places these electrodes up and down my leg.  She would administer a little shock here and there to basically see how much my leg reacted.  By my foot, where the sciatic nerve is at its smallest, I would feel what amounted to a little electrical pinprick.  But as she moved up my leg, the shocks felt more and more intense, and my reflexive reaction got bigger and bigger.  When she got to my butt, it felt like I got hit with a stun gun, and my leg let out a huge uncontrollable kick.  It was kind of funny and painful at the same time.  The EMG showed that there was nothing wrong with my sciatic nerve, so it turns out that my butt issue is just a muscle problem, like a pulled hamstring or something. 

Later, at physical therapy, my PT Marina (funny, both Dr. Babiy's and my PT's first names are Marina) confirmed that the problem area was not, as I had believed, my piriformis muscle.  She did this by isolating my piriformis muscle: I lay on the table on my left, bent my right leg and raised my right leg up, while her hand applied downward pressure.  This maneuver apparently isolates the piriformis muscle, which ends up flexing out of the butt.  She poked around at that muscle, and I didn't feel anything abnormal.  The area where I felt tenderness was further outside--my glute.  So I guess Dr. Metzl was right, I just have a weak butt. 

So I've been working some exercises to strengthen it, although some of them don't really seem to be butt exercises at all.  One of them is a "pushup" where I lie on the floor and push my chest up while keeping my legs and hips on the floor, kind of like an Upward Facing Dog in yoga.  My favorite part of physical therapy is when she attaches the electrodes to my butt.  The electrodes make a tingling sensation, nothing like the EMG shocks.  She sets the machine for ten minutes, and I usually end up taking a quick nap while it makes my butt feel all warm and fuzzy.  Here's the machine:

The next day, Saturday, I went to get my MRI on my ankle.  I have to say, as great a doctor as Dr. Babiy is, the places she sends me to get imaging done are the worst.  For my x-rays, I went to a place on 17th Street, where I had to sit in the waiting room for an hour and a half!  This was during my lunch break so I thought I was going to get fired.  For my MRI, Dr. Babiy sent me to Union Square Diagnostic Imaging.  I appreciated how this place had evening and weekend appointments.  They were able to fit me in the day after I called them, for a Saturday evening appointment at 7:30 (yes, I was planning to spend Saturday night getting a magnetic image of my ankle).  Around 2:00 they called me and told me they were running ahead of schedule, and asked if I could come in at 5:30.  I gladly obliged.

Well, I got to the waiting room, and ended up waiting for an hour and forty-five minutes.  I was like, ripsh-t.  I mean, like, they f-cking tell me to get to my appointment two hours early only to wait in the f-cking waiting room for two f-cking hours to watch f-cking Animal Planet on the f-cking TV?!?!  I went like apesh-t at the poor receptionist there, who was the one who told me to come early.  Not one of my proudest moments.

The MRI itself went off without much incident.  Despite the completely unnecessary noise (like an ambulance siren combined with a tractor truck's backup beeps), I managed to fall asleep during the half hour long process.

Wednesday, I had another physical therapy appointment.  And although I did not have a separate appointment that day with Dr. Babiy, she agreed to see me after my PT to discuss my MRI results with me.  It's things like this that make Dr. Babiy such a remarkable sports medicine doc.  I can't imagine another doctor taking time out of their busy day to have an unscheduled meeting with me.  So here's another plug for her.

Well, the MRI results were not good.  I have a partial tear in my tibial tendon.  On top of that, a bone bruise cannot be ruled out.  Though she's not able to say for sure at this point, Dr. Babiy said that these types of injuries usually require about six weeks off from running.  I've already taken two, so four more to go...  Dr. Babiy also referred me to a foot and ankle specialist, Dr. Jessica Gallina, who will further evaluate and treat the condition.  She mentioned the possibility of wearing a boot.

What little information is available online about posterior tibial tendon tears does not give me great confidence.  It is also somewhat confusing.  This injury does not appear to be a common one in runners.  Instead, it usually occurs in sports that require a lot of lateral movement, such as basketball or tennis.  It could also result from a sprained ankle.  I vaguely remember twisting my ankle at some point after the NYC marathon.  But there's a possibility that I'm imagining it, or it could have been my other ankle, and I certainly don't remember it being particularly major.  My appointment with Dr. Gallina is on Monday, so I guess at this point, there's no real point to stressing over it.  It's worth mentioning that while all this is certainly bumming me out, I am glad I sought out Dr. Babiy for a second opinion after Dr. Metzl told me there was nothing wrong with my ankle.  I'll let you know what happens after my Monday exam.

Last week I went to yoga five times.  Yesterday, I realized that I need to get back to doing cardio, lest I continue to balloon up.  I went swimming for the first time in months.  Hopefully, by the end of six weeks, I'll at least be able to develop my stroke.

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I made a couple of chicken dinners over the past week.  The first one was a five-spice braised chicken and daikon that I made in my pressure cooker.  I just threw the chicken and daikon in the pot, along with some scallions, ginger, garlic, soy sauce, rice wine, Manischewitz, five spice powder, star anise, and sugar.  In the picture below, the daikon looks a little like scallops.  I recently discovered that I can make brown rice in my rice cooker, so I'm making an effort to eat more brown rice instead of white rice.  And I've been on a collard greens kick of late, so that made a nice pairing.

The next night, I made pan-barbecued chicken.  For the barbecue sauce, I used ketchup, soy sauce, sesame oil, grated ginger, sugar and Worcestershire sauce.  My cast-iron skillet did a great job at giving the chicken a tasty caramelized crust.  I served it with a vinegar-based nappa cabbage coleslaw (I was excited to use, for the first time in my life, coriander seeds in this), and some not-so-homemade Bush's Baked Beans.  Oh, and some leftover brown rice and collard greens.  Dessert was a delicious Betty Crocker carrot cake with cream cheese frosting.  Mmmmm......

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Foam rolling, running pants and dumplings

After Thanksgiving, I was eager to begin running again.  The Front Runners indoor track season started the week before Thanksgiving, and I was just starting to get into it.  Front Runners meets on Tuesdays and Thursday evenings at the Armory Track, a 200 meter indoor track in Washington Heights

Tuesday's workout was 6 x 800 meters, with 400 meters of jogging after each set.  Koach Kelsey divides the group into three or four smaller groups, roughly based on speed.  Although last year I generally ran in the "fast" group, I've been self-selecting the second group this year so as not to get sucked into the fast people's vortex and overstress my butt and ankle.  Plus, I think the fast group this year is quite a bit faster than the fast group last year (and I'm slower, haha). 

My first four 800s went pretty well.  I was wearing my brand-new racing flats that I had just bought earlier that day (the Brooks Racer ST 4).  It was my first time ever running in racing flats and my feet felt so light.  Peter and Stephan were in my group and we took the front of the group, taking turns at who among us would be in the lead.  First four sets: 3:14, 3:09, 3:09, 3:06.  On the third lap of the fifth set, I began to feel my left ankle acting up.  I let up a little bit on my last lap, finishing in 3:09.  As I started my recovery jog, I realized that I was limping.  After one loop, when the pain in my ankle didn't let up, I decided to call it a day.

I didn't really think much of it.  Having completed five of the six sets, I felt I had a pretty decent workout.  But as I sat and watched the rest of the group do their last set, I couldn't help but feel a bit left out.  It turned out, Peter and Stephan were probably holding back for the first five sets, and flew through their last set at around 2:50.  It looked so fun to be running that fast, and I really wished that I could have joined them.

I know it was a good idea, no matter how difficult, to sit out that last set.  The next night, I went to the Wednesday night fun run.  Two miles in, I got the pain in my ankle again.  I ended up just jogging/walking around the top of the reservoir--another disappointing four miles.  It's starting to get discouraging.

And because I was unwilling to admit defeat, I went to the Armory workout on Thursday too.  I actually did not feel any serious ankle or butt pain at all.  Then again, the workout was really short, and I was not running nearly as fast as I would have liked considering the distance--12 x 200.  My 39-41 second splits were fine, but I knew I could go quite a bit faster.  I started to wonder whether I needed to take some more time off.

I had scheduled an appointment on Friday morning to meet with a new sports medicine doctor.  I liked Dr. Metzl, but I just wanted someone else to take a look at me and tell me if anything was wrong.  I pretty much picked a new doctor at random, typing in "sports medicine new york 10011" into Google.  The first result was walking distance to my apartment, took my insurance, and could fit me in within a few days.  So I booked a date with Dr. Marina Babiy.

First off, Dr. Babiy spent at least 20-25 minutes analyzing me, compared with about five minutes for Dr. Metzl.  She she asked me 20 different questions about the pain I was experiencing, made me walk in front of her, tested my reflexes, had me press my leg against her hand in different directions in order to pinpoint the pain, and observed my back to see if the butt issue was linked to my spine (since the sciatic nerve going down the leg originates in the spine).  Dr. Metzl didn't do any of this.

At the end of the exam, she told me that although the pins and needles sensation that I felt could be indicative of sciatica, it was more likely that I had a muscle or tendon strain in my butt.  She scheduled me for an electromyogram (EMG) to rule out the sciatica.  Regarding the ankle, she said she did not see any major inflammation, so that it was probably a sprain as opposed to a stress fracture.  I didn't tell her that I had seen Dr. Metzl a few weeks earilier and he didn't see anything bone-related or serious.  Nonetheless, she ordered x-rays on my ankle.  She said that based on the EMG and x-rays, she will determine if more imaging is necessary.

In the meantime, she prescribed 800mg of ibuprofen twice a day, physical therapy, and lots of icing.  She also said no running for two weeks, at the end of which we will reassess the situation.  I am bummed, but two weeks is not that long, and it's somewhat comforting to know that additional testing will be done.

The convenient thing about Dr. Babiy's office is that not only is it close to my house, but she also has a number of physical therapists on staff.  So I was able to go to physical therapy right after my doctor's appointment (and I only paid one copayment!).  The PT that I saw, Steven, taught me some stretches for my butt and had me use a foam roller.  He was surprised to hear that I don't own a foam roller, nor have I ever really used one.  I have to say, after trying it in physical therapy, I wondered how I could possibly have gone for so long without it.  It felt so it was simultaneously soothing and intensifying my pain at the same time...  I had to buy my own the very next day at Jackrabbit.

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A few weeks ago was John's MacConnell's birthday, so I had him and a small group of runners over for dumplings.  By the way, John's working of a new website,  It's still a work in progress, but right now he's using it to show off his new running pants man / lightning bolt character.  Here he is:

The website also has an ever-changing running haiku of the day, and you can submit your own running haiku.  You can also request a running pants man temporary tattoo.  And my favorite part of the site is the area where readers post pictures of their body parts adorned with the running pants man tattoo.  Can you guess which body part is mine?

For John's birthday, I made chive-and-pork, and napa-cabbage-and-pork dumplings.  Both fillings also included shitake mushrooms, ginger, scallion, little dried shrimps, soy sauce, sesame oil and Franzia.  Here are the fillings:

I always have a good time stuffing dumplings with friends.  I think it's more fun to have a dinner party where everyone is helping out, rather than having one person stuck in the kitchen the whole time.  The dumplings below were made by me and John.  He made the fancy crimped ones in the midde, and mine were the pleated ones on the sides.  They tasted even better than they looked.  :-)

Monday, December 7, 2009

I am thankful for not rolling off the mountain

Around the Thanksgiving holiday, I decided to take some time off of running.  My butt and ankle were not getting any better, and I thought since I was going to be home for the holiday, it would be the perfect time to get some rest.  So I did not run for 11 days (November 20-30). 

The way I had scheduled things, I almost didn't really have an opportunity to miss running.  Saturday, November 21, I didn't go to the fun run.  Instead, I had registered to volunteer that day as part of my 9+1 volunteer race to qualify for next year's NYC Marathon.  When I signed up for a volunteer race, there weren't many more options available.  One of the few races with volunteer spots left was the Knickerbocker 60k--an 37.2 mile ultramarathon that includes 9 grueling loops around Central Park--so I signed up for it.  I was actually excited about volunteering at the Knickerbocker, despite my 5-hour long volunteer shift.  Six Front Runners ended up running the race, and armed with my cowbell, I got to cheer them on as they came round and round.  It was a small race by NYRR standards--only 187 total runners.  By the end of my volunteer shift, I recognized all of the runners, and felt like I could tell how each one was doing.  One of runners, a member of the Running Club Powered by Dim Sum, recognized me from the Asbury Park Relay Marathon.  The NYC running world is so small, haha.

[As I wrote this entry, I decided to see if I could figure out who this guy was.  After some brief results list cross referencing and a Google search, I found out that he is Hideki Kinoshita, and he set out to run 14 marathons in 13 weeks to raise money for pancreatic cancer.  You can donate to his cause, which benefits the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network, here.]

The next day was the Race to Deliver.  I had signed up for it, but decided not to run it because of my injuries.  It's too bad, since for a while, that race held my 4-miler PR (6:22 pace in 2007, which I beat in 2008 with a 6:17.  Hopefully one day before I die, I will break 6:15...).  Also, the race is germane to this blog (about running and food), since the money that's raised through running goes to benefit God's Love We Deliver, which prepares and delivers healthy meals to those who, because of HIV/AIDS and other illnesses, are unable to provide or prepare it themselves.

And on Tuesday, when I normally would have done the speed workout at the Armory, I instead flew to California to spend Thanksgiving with my parents in San Jose.  Although I didn't run during the time I was home, I did do the bike ride that I mentioned in an earlier post with my brother Tony.  To remind you, the ride was an 18.4 mile ride and 4300 foot climb of Mt. Hamilton Thanksgiving morning.  It was brutal.  I literally thought I was going to die.  I can't even explain how difficult it was.

My brother and I got there a few minutes after the bike ride officially begin.  As a result, we did not get to register, and our times weren't listed in the official results.  I think this was a good thing.  My time would have put me in last place, and by a pretty wide margin.  Actually, my brother would have been last, but more on that later.  Suffice it to say that I've run 18.4 miles faster than it took me to bike it.

Riding up Mt. Hamilton requires going up three separate hills, between 4-6 miles each, with a 4.7%-6% grade.  The last hill, at 6 miles and 6%, is both the longest and the steepest.  I was able to go up the first hill without much of a problem.  I wasn't really keeping track of my time or pace or anything, but I knew it took a long time.  When I got past the first hill, I took a little bit of a break.  Somehow my brother and I got separated at the beginning of the ride.  After a few minutes, he didn't show up.  I probably should have waited longer, but I figured I'd be slowing down soon, and he would catch up. 

The second hill was shorter and not as steep as the first, so it should have been easier.  But by this time, my legs were really feeling the weight of the constant pedaling, and I was already exhausted.  I had to pull over a couple of times on the ride in order to stretch my legs out and rest.  By the way, this wasn't like biking down the Westside Highway.  There are no water fountains, no shops to run into, or porta potties available.  I had brought plenty of water, but was wishing I had brought more along to eat than my single Clif Bar.  I felt like I was going to be completely zapped of any energy in a matter of moments.  I broke off a piece of my Clif Bar and pushed on.

By the third hill, I just had nothing else to give.  The six-mile, 2300 foot rise might has well have been a million miles.  I seriously could have walked faster than I biked.  And about once every mile, I had to stop and catch my breath and stretch my legs for a minute.  By the way, going reeeealllly slowly up a steeeeep hill with clipless pedals is kind of scary.  I started having thoughts that I would start rolling backwards and be unable to clip out of my pedals, flying off the cliff into a ravine. 

Eventually I saw Lick Observatory, which marked the summit.  It was one of this times when you see something huge off in the distance and go and go and go and go but feel like you're never getting any closer.  But about three hours after I started, I finally reached the top.  It was a great sight.  Mt. Hamilton is the tallest mountain overlooking Silicon Valley, and I when was up there, I felt like I had conquered the impossible.

Tony arrived at the top about 10 minutes after me.  The reason he took so long?  I was riding his road bike, and he ended up taking a mountain bike.  Oh, and he had his three-year-old son strapped into a seat on the back.  Showoff.

I felt bad for going so far ahead of him, but I think in the end it worked out for the best.  He said he wanted to turn back after the second hill, and tried calling me to let me know.  Unfortunately, he couldn't get any cell phone signal, so he just kept riding.  Had I been with him, I would have all too gladly agreed to turn around.  But because I kept going, I got rewarded with a great feeling of accomplishment and a magnificent view to boot.

Here are some pictures of Thanksgiving dinner later that day.  Thanksgiving at my house is a combination of Chinese and American foods.  My favorite dish is the stuffing, which my mom makes out of sticky rice.  She adds Chinese sausage, dried shitake mushroom, dried shrimps, and some veggies.  It's so sticky and carby and savory and delicious, I love it.  Among with a bunch of other dishes, Mom also made a sea cucumber and scallop dish, a bean noodle and cucumber salad, and a ginger steamed shrimp, all pictured below.