Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Day 3,671: Best. Lasagna. Ever. (Run Fast. Eat Slow.)

It may not look like much but this lasagna from the new Run Fast Eat Slow cookbook is one of the best I've had/made.
The other day I was flipping through Run Fast. Eat Slow., the new cookbook by Olympian Shalane Flanagan and Elyse Kopecky and saw the wife made a comment above the recipe titled Marathon Lasagna.

This gave me pause. I'd made it the other day, for the first time, for her and my in-laws and it really was an experimental undertaking for me. For one, I can count on my fingers the number of times I've ever made lasagna myself and two, there was an ingredient in the recipe that made me wonder if I could pull it off: sweet potato.

The recipe is a nod to what Flanagan apparently likes to eat before running at an elite pace in the Boston Marathon, something that sounds a lot like a Thanksgiving meal I would eat in November instead of on the eve of running 26.2 miles on Patriot's Day.

But lasagna is lasagna and ever since Garfield declared his love for it when I was little, I've loved scarfing down pans of it myself.

It turns out this recipe is pretty easy. It uses ground turkey that you turn into a meat sauce, and then you layer the tray with no-boil noodles (really helpful for a lasagna neophyte like myself), a mixture of ricotta and mashed sweet potatoes, wilted spinach and of course, cheese. There are several layers and when I most recently made this dish on Monday I really was worried everything was going to spill over out of the pan and all over the oven. This didn't happen.

The result is something spectacular. The sweet potato and ricotta make it gooey and cheesy and delightful. It's going to be in the dinner rotation for months if not years to come and may become the reason I need to crank out a few more long runs every now and then.

Looking forward to trying more recipes from the pros!

Monday, January 16, 2017

Day 3,669: Meet your new nuun ambassador

It's funny. Today I had ideas for two if not three new posts, even took pictures for one of them and as luck would have it, found this email in my Inbox telling me I'd been accepted as an ambassador for Seattle-based nuun hydration.

This is what the email, in part, said:

we are so happy to welcome you to the nuun family! you have been selected to represent nuun in all the amazing areas in which you live, work, play, and compete. we hope you're as excited as we are!
this year we have once again received a record number of applicants and we're excited that you have been accepted as a nuunbassador within our program! 

I found out about nuun a few years ago and it was nice to have an alternative to hauling huge packs of Gatorade to and from Costco during Atlanta's hot summers when I needed to rehydrate after runs. The nuun product is a tablet that looks like a large SweeTarts. You drop it in a water bottle and it provides you with much needed electrolytes after a workout. Even the wife liked it, getting her own flavors while she trained for various races such as the Publix Georgia Half Marathon.

The ambassadorships are something I've always wanted to be a part of. The first year I learned you could apply to be one it was too late. Two years ago I thought I had the right information down but missed the window again.

This time around I caught their Facebook notice that the applications were open and filled one out online. A cool thing about this application is to be considered, you must read and sign the Clean Sport Pledge. It's a neat thing to be a part of as a recreational runner.

I wasn't sure what my chances were to be accepted -- it looks like there are a lot of really fast athletes who are ambassadors. And this was after I learned last month that I was not accepted as an ambassador for the Atlanta Track Club.

So I just pitched who I am -- a stay-at-home dad who got a lot stronger and faster pushing a double stroller while maintaining what's now a 10-year consecutive day running streak.

I'm someone who will never be really fast, qualify for the Boston Marathon or anything like that. But I still need to hydrate, especially in the hot summers. And I would have continued to use nuun tablets regardless of being accepted as an ambassador.

But now I can't wait to represent nuun in races and be a part of something that's helped me develop as a runner.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Day 3,660: A little bit of ice with that run

Showing off the Yaktrax in Piedmont Park.
When this morning rolled around it didn't look too snowy but did look to be very icy. So I put on the Yaktrax that had been hanging in my garage for the last three years and headed to Piedmont Park.

I wore them over a pretty new pair of Saucony Zealot ISO 2s, which seemed to be much better than when I wore Nike's Air Pegasus shoe during the 2014 storm. I didn't feel the Yaktrax's metal coils as much, maybe because of Saucony's rubber tread.

Getting to the park was easy but the Park Avenue bridge was a little daunting, basically at that time of the morning it was just a big sheet of ice.

This iced over bridge was not what I'd planned for my short run this morning.
But I made my way carefully over it and did not even have the slightest hint of slipping. There were a few dog walkers and one runner I saw in the park. I'd planned on doing a longer run today but when I got to the 1-mile point I knew there wasn't anything I really needed to do today (besides continue the streak) and so I headed back home.

The roads and sidewalks got much better later in the day, even if it didn't get above 28 degrees today.

Time: 8:30 a.m.
Temp: 21 degrees
Gear: Technical T-shirt, long x2, mock technical turtleneck (Marine Corps Marathon '14), North Face windbreaker, Outdoor Research hat, gloves, Brooks Sherpa III running pants, shoes and traction control device as noted above.

Friday, January 6, 2017

Day 3,659: I'm dreaming of a warmer Charles Harris 10K

This year's Charles Harris 10K has been moved to March instead of its traditional end-of-February slot.
In planning my races for this winter/spring, I was surprised to see the annual Charles Harris 10K will be held on March 11.

For many years previously, the race was held on the last Saturday of February, guaranteeing cold temperatures for a favorite Peachtree Qualifier for many in the arrea.

When I ran in the race last year, it was 34 degrees at race start. Two years prior to that, the race was still chilly at 39 degrees. It was 37 degrees at race start when I ran in it in 2011. And I really had to bundle up in the 2007 race when it was 33 degrees out!

Yet a few weeks can make a huge difference in temperature here. When I ran in the Intown Ten on March 6 last year, it was 46 degrees, truly T-shirt and shorts weather! And a few weeks after I ran in the Charles Harris 10K in 2014, it was 50 degrees during the St. Patrick's Day 5K.

I asked race officials about the change and it turns out that the race was moved back because the Run the Reagan now will be held at the end of February. Event organizer Skip Bresser works both races and obviously can't be in two places at once!

So bring on the heat -- and a fast race!

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Day 3,658: Throwback Thursday: Do y'all have your Yaktrax ready?

Since forecasters are predicting a snow storm to strike on Friday, I thought it might be nice to revisit a review of the Yaktrax Pro that I wrote nearly three years ago during the city's last bad storm. 

They kept my running streak alive, and I suffered no falls from snow and ice like I remember doing wearing regular running shoes during the ice storm in 2011.

I've kept my pair of the "traction control devices" in the garage ever since, waiting for the next time they're needed. Actually looking forward to running with them again.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Day 3,653: Consecutive day streak, 10 years

My second Masters win, this time at the Stamp Out Poverty 5K.
I haven't run in a 5K race since the Fast Track 5K in May. But with a new year of races ahead, particularly a few that I really enjoyed last year, I wanted to have a baseline race to kick off my training.

So I chose the Stamp Out Poverty 5K today in Grant Park. It looked to be a small race, but one that was USATF-certified although it really wouldn't matter what my time was in it.

It also was nice to pick a race for the final day of my 10th year of my daily running streak.

I drove up 40 minutes before the 10 a.m. start. The race didn't start on time, however, because it turned out one of the gates in the park along the race course was still locked and no one had the key.

So the race director made a quick change to the course, promising he would have it re-certified by Monday.

When the race started we all took off, following the director's black SUV through the park's roads. I was about 6th from the head of the pack and it was apparent that my 6:50/mile pace was too much. We took the first uphill turn after a quarter-mile and I felt shaky, not a good sign.

The course took us to the large three-tiered parking lot in the park. We were to run up the highest tier closest to Boulevard and then turn where the parking lot is bisected by an accessway then curve down to the second tier, then curve down to the lowest tier, where we would run the length of the lot along the bottom and then back up to the middle tier and then back toward the park.

Confusing, huh?

What this meant was the lead pack knew what was expected but everyone else didn't. When we were running along the bottom, people in the middle of the pack were pouring down from the top tier to the bottom and then turning back into the park.

And then when we were running along the middle tier, we had to cross the main flow of traffic that now was pouring down to the bottom tier. It was interesting, to say the least, to time the speed of your run, running at full bore, to miss people running slower than you but crossing your path.

The first two runners were now out of sight when I entered the park. I was about 30 seconds behind two other guys and I felt like maybe we wouldn't end up running the full 3.1 miles but at least if I tried to keep up with them I would place somehow.

When we entered the park from the parking lot, I was shocked to learn that there were plenty of runners ahead of us who were running in the same direction. I think these runners were the ones who ran to the bottom tier of the parking lot and then back into the park instead of running along the bottom perimeter of the lot and back.

It worried me a little bit, since now I thought I would have to race these runners, who started out behind me, to place at all in the race.

I worked my way to pass people and then we ran up to the locked gate and turned around, going back up the hill from the first turn of the race, making our way back near the parking lot, running around a large tree right before the asphalt started and then making our way back down to the finish.

On the way back down, I could hear loud clip-clopping. I was hoping this was the female in her 20s who was just behind me as I approached the turnaround tree. But it was a pretty tall European guy. He passed me and proceeded back down the hill.

But when we reached the bottom, he turned right -- back towards the locked gate, instead of the finish. Everyone was yelling at him to go the other way. After a second, he finally did turn around.

At this point, I started running as fast as I could to try to reach the finish before he could. But even with what my watch said was a 6:16/mile kick, he caught up with me and finished about four seconds ahead of me. (It turned out he placed first in his age group but under 30 years old).

I made sure I finished strong to keep anyone else from finishing ahead of me. I waited around for the awards and it turned out I was the first Masters male, even despite my finish time of 23:34, which means I have a bunch of work to do this season.

I started with a 7:14 first mile, then slowed to 7:41 for my second and third miles. The course was a little hilly but I know I'm capable of running faster.

Still, it was a nice way to end 10 years of running every day. I ran 1,818.61 miles this year and have run 14,157.12 miles for the streak!

Time: 10:14 a.m.
Temp: 41 degrees
Gear: Technical T-shirt, long (Atlanta 10-Miler 2013), Technical T-shirt, short (Rock'n'Roll Chicago Half Marathon 2010), shorts, Brooks Pure Connect 4.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Day 3,643: The 500th Mile (Saucony Zealot ISO 2)

A pair of Saucony Zealot ISO 2s with 500 miles on them.
One of the things I love about running shoes is getting a pair to 500 miles, probably the farthest you should run on a pair.

In doing so, I get the most out of them for the money (these shoes list for $130) and it helps me pare down what is essentially a pretty large horde of running shoes (I have six other active pairs right now, not including a pair of racing flats and trail running shoes).

It also gives me the most amount of time to really review the shoe and see if it met my needs.

This is the second version of the Zealot that I've worn, the first being the original Zealot that I bought in April 2015. Then and now my purpose was to have a light, neutral, low-drop shoe (this shoe advertises a 4 mm drop and 9.5 ounce weight) that also was cushioned as much as possible.

I felt like the original Zealots were clunkers and pretty heavy, although Saucony's rubber treads really helped in rainy races like the 2015 Hotlanta Half Marathon.

Saucony says the new Zealot 2s feature "EVERUN topsole construction providing smoother landings in the heel and reduced pressure in the forefoot."

From the start I felt these shoes were much lighter than the original Zealots. They were cushy and fun to run in, whether I was doing tempo runs or pushing the double stroller around.

Still, the shoe gave my right foot some fits, reminding me of how the old Nike Air Pegasus used to be.

And then I finally wore them in a race, the Craft Classic Half Marathon. They felt great in the race but shortly afterward I developed my first serious running injury, what appeared to be a stress reaction in my right shin. I blame my marathon training load but it marked the last time I wore the Zealot 2s in a race.

I felt obligated to run them to 500 miles (262 more miles after that race). In the end, they are solid and dependable shoes. I didn't like how I wore friction holes on the inside of the heel (probably from not taking them off properly after runs) but they are dependable enough to keep around as non-running everyday shoes.

I have a second pair that I purchased pre-injury but I'm not as raring to take them to 500 miles ... yet. We'll see.