Sunday, January 29, 2017

Keeping fit at 32 cents per workout (FitStar by Fitbit)

Exactly two weeks ago, I received a notice from Google Play that my card had been charged $39.99. It was for FitStar, the exercise app that I started last year and helped me break my Diet Coke habit. My year subscription was up and I auto-renewed.

Last year I did 124 workouts, which comes roughly to 32 cents a workout. It was a pretty good deal to me.

All the workouts are body weight, maybe stuff I should have been doing anyway, but really needed some kind of organized program to get me going. I feel like during the year I've made vast improvements in all around strength, especially in my core, arms and legs. It was nice to read articles in Runners World about recommended exercises for runners and to know that I'd been doing them anyway.

It definitely showed in my running. Last year, I broke my PR for the half marathon twice, set a PR for the 10K and later in the year set official PRs for the 20K and 30K distances during the Bank of America Chicago Marathon.

One thing I found was that during marathon training it was hard to keep up with the workouts. In those months I did between four to six workouts a month. But now with a more open schedule (meaning I'm not actively training for a marathon right now) I find it's nice to continue the FitStar workouts. Tonight was my ninth workout of the month.

In tonight's workout, there was a twist -- the workouts were formerly led by former Atlanta Falcons tight end Tony Gonzalez, but now there are new trainers leading the way, maybe as part of changes after Fitbit acquired the app last March.

Some of the dialogue is exactly the same but there are slight changes in technique, including during Muay Thai kicks, bench dips and bicycle kicks.

Last year I told myself I would do this for a year before deciding whether to enroll in a CrossFit gym. I think given my running goals and the time commitment I'll continue doing these exercises and might instead opt to hire a running coach to get the most out of my feet.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Hot Chocolate expo (rainfest)

With fond memories of going to last year's Hot Chocolate 5K/15K expo, I looked forward to this year's event. After all, who can turn down free chocolate?

The only thing was getting there. It poured for much of the morning today, drenching me in a 6-mile run (my shoes were not dry until four days later).

But without really knowing when it would let up, we decided to make the best of it and get in and out of the expo quickly.

Unlike last year, we were unable to park in the Gold lot, which is protected from the elements. So we parked across the street from the Georgia World Congress Center in the blue lot ($10). But at this point, the rain was just pouring down in sheets. Just getting the double stroller out of the car got my jeans totally drenched.

The water was pouring down the side of the street and on the sidewalk, so when we crossed our shoes were totally drenched! At least the weather -- and the rain -- was warm so it didn't make too much difference when we finally got inside.

When we did, we were greeted by someone at the expo handing out the little squares of chocolate as pictured above. The best was yet to come, as they had vanilla wafers dipped in chocolate and hot chocolate near the expo's exit. The little ones of course loved this!

Overall, the expo seemed small in size. I signed up for this year's Big Peach Sizzler 10K as I did last year at this time -- when you sign up at the expo you get $5 off entry and get a free T-shirt. The only shirt I don't have from this race is the orange one, so that's the one I chose!

I was also happy to see the Nuun booth in action. They had samples of their regular tablets plus ones with vitamins, which at least was new to me. I didn't introduce myself as a Nuun Ambassador but we found a couple flavors we liked (blueberry pomegranate and blackberry citrus) so we bought two tubes and got a free Nuun water bottle.

My favorite flavor of Nuun, at least until I tried the new versions.
 When we got outside, the rain had totally stopped! If we'd waited we could have gotten to and from the expo without a drop of water but that's the way it goes. Still I'll take rain and warm (about 57 degrees) over the 27 degrees it was last year.

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.