The race passed (a few weeks ago now), but I still have raffle prizes left, so onward we go! Tonight’s winners are Emily H. and Kylie B., I’ve e-mailed you for prize selection.
I have a LOT of pictures from race weekend, so I’m splitting the recap into two parts. This one will be about the pre-race happenings.
I left work early Friday and flew down to LAX, and took a shuttle to the team hotel, the Loews Hollywood. I was supposed to be sharing a room with another team member, but there was nobody else there and no one ever showed up with a key, so either I was a lucky odd woman out when it came to room pairings or someone just didn’t show. Either way, I got a sweet hotel room to myself! Score.
After settling in, I headed out for an early dinner. I had researched vegan restaurants in the area, but my top choice was easy – Veggie Grill. I’d never been to one and the menu sounded right up my alley. The closest was just under two miles away, and I decided to walk in order to see a bit more of LA, and to avoid paying cab fare. I was already famished when I set out, and absolutely starving by the time I arrived, so seeing the sign made me incredibly happy.
On a normal day, everything on their menu looks great. Being so hungry, everything on the menu looked AMAZING. I didn’t waste any time in ordering, and grabbed a seat.
I don’t usually have caloric beverages with dinner, but I took carbo-loading as an excuse to have a tasty drink. I mixed half strawberry lemonade with half peach tea, which turned out to be a surprisingly delicious combination. While I waited for my meal, I enjoyed watching everyone who came in, including lots of “normal” looking people who you wouldn’t peg for those who would eat a vegan meal. Even the mall security guys came in to grab a take out order!
For my meal, I chose the Buffalo Bomber – crispy chickin’ tossed with spicy buffalo sauce, tomato, red onion, lettuce, and ranch dressing. I really loved the sandwich. The roll was hearty enough to hold everything together, the chickin’ was crispy and meaty, and the buffalo sauces and ranch dressing balanced each other well. With carbo-loading as an excuse (again), I went with mac and cheese as my side, and to be honest I didn’t love it. The texture of the sauce was gooey and creamy, but it was a little bland flavor-wise.
For dessert, I chose the chocolate chia pudding parfait with chocolate cookie crumbles. I was expecting to get something with whole chia seeds, like tapioca, but I was pleased to see this perfectly smooth parfait. It was wonderfully chocolaty and rich, just like the pudding cups of my youth.
I took the long way back to the hotel and walked over another hour, which probably wasn’t the best idea two days before a race, but it was a really nice night out and I wanted to explore.
The next morning was the coaches’ brunch. I had been told there would at least be something vegan to eat, and I was expecting oatmeal or a bagel and fruit. So, you can imagine I was thrilled when I saw tofu scramble (with veggies!), potatoes (clearly marked vegan!), and soy milk for the coffee. I was feeling like a bottomless pit that morning, and definitely went back for seconds, only after some potatoes slipped off the plate and spilled ketchup ALL over me and the table cloth.
As we ate, we listened to remarks from Olympian Frank Shorter which were great, and then the national coach Spencer gave us some last minute tips and strategies, which were also great.
After brunch, we loaded into shuttles to be taken to the expo. I’d never been to a big race expo, so I was excited to see what it was all about. I was also determined not to spend any money.
Team ASPCA had our own check in area which was nice, but not necessarily faster since there weren’t a lot of other people checking in at the time. After picking up my bib and swag bag I ambled around for a while, trying some samples and just looking around. There wasn’t a whole lot to do there if you were trying not to shop. The coolest feature, I thought, was a time lapse video of the race course, which gave us a preview of what was to come the next day.
I had plans for an early dinner that night but was hungry already by the time we got back to the hotel in the early afternoon, so I went to the mall next door and picked up a pizza from California Pizza Kitchen.
I would’ve liked way more veggies, but beggars can’t be choosers, and this was certainly fine for a get-me-through-to-dinner “snack”. I also had a pumpkin soy latte from The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, since I’d heard they’re vegan if you ask to leave out the vanilla flavoring. There was actual chunks of pumpkin puree in it, which was kind of weird texture-wise, but nice to know that it’s made from actual pumpkin.
For pre-race dinner, I had plans to get together with Dave’s sister, who lives in LA, and her boyfriend. They’re not vegan or vegetarian, so I tried my best to find a good restaurant in the area that would suit us all, but had a hard time. Luckily for me, they’re really open to different types of food and said they’d be fine with a vegan or vegetarian restaurant, so I came up with a few options. I was really hoping that we’d be able to go to Real Food Daily, but we were a little short on time and traffic was crazy in the area (it was the Saturday before Halloween and partiers were out in full force), so we went for the one that was closest, Paru’s Indian.
When we pulled up to the address on Sunset, the front of the small building was a brick wall with bars on the windows. We weren’t certain we were in the right place, but there was an open sign, so we rang the bell and were buzzed through the door, which revealed a courtyard of sorts. We were then lead into the dining area, and it was clear that the restaurant was a converted house, which explained the weird facade. It was really cozy inside, and we immediately became more comfortable with our choice!
We started with samosas, which were huge and delicious, and unfortunately I forgot to take a photo. They came with chutney, coconut sauce, and a small dish of some sort of curried chickpeas in brown gravy.
For my entree, I chose the Tanjore Double platter, which was full of South Indian specialties. It was WAY more food than it looks like in this photo! I don’t eat South Indian food very often, and the tastes and textures were so interesting. My favorite new discovery was the uppama, which was described to me as a kind of cream of wheat. And the “mini dosa”? It was at least a foot long.
I tried to leave some food on the plate in order not to completely stuff myself, but it was so good that even after I pushed the plate away I kept going back for more bites. I know you’re not supposed to eat anything new or different the night before a race, but honestly I think my digestive system is strong enough to handle almost anything. I did make sure not to order anything too spicy.
Next post – race day!