Second Marathon Training Has Begun!!!!

This week I started training for my second marathon.  Decided to stick with Runkeeper use the Sub 3:45 plan.  Breaking four hours was a great feeling for my first race, now I am hoping to have a sub 9:00 min/mile pace.  I also want to avoid the near breakdowns I had after 20 miles (hamstrings tightening; having to walk much of mile 26).  Hoping to include some core and strength training to improve my overall running performance.  Still haven’t figured out when I’ll work in the extra work outs; I’ll have to re-prioritize some weekly TV watching events to make it happen.

Feels good to have structure to the week rather than just going out and winging it while running.  So far runs have been four and five miles at an easy pace.  I am scheduled for an 8 miler this weekend which I’m planning to do on this weekend’s Breakfast run.  I only missed two workouts during preparation for my first marathon, but I did make up for those with some extra runs.  I’m hoping that during the winter months I will be able to stay on track with the program.  Only having 4-5 days of training per week helps since it provides some flexibility for making up missed training.

Yesterday, the temperature was near 70 degrees for the 5 miler I ran in the afternoon.  That likely will be the last run I get to do in shorts and a T-shirt for a while (excluding potential treadmill torture workouts during extreme weather).

Weekend is almost here!

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Speaking of Wool Running Gear: Get DARN TOUGH!

If you want the best running socks hands down, get your feet in some DARN TOUGH Vermont Socks.  Since switching to these last February (first wool socks ever for me), I have not had cold feet or a blister yet!  In fact, I’ve dumped all cotton footwear from my dresser and wearing Darn Toughs exclusively every day (running or not).  My feet are grateful!

My first pair of Darn Toughs. Still going strong after 700 miles or so and daily wear at work.

Bought this pair for the Maine Marathon. Sore feet were not an issue thanks to the cushioning! Also have another pair that I used all summer long.

Just bought these a couple of weeks ago. Now my everyday non-running sock. No more sweaty, stinky feet at work. Helps keep my feet energized for after work runs!

Wow! A one week review of the PEP Shevlin+

Last week my Pettet Endurance Project Shevlin+ wool running shirt arrived in the mail!  It was exciting to see the package, but I was even more impressed when I opened to the packaging inside the mailing envelope:

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I loved the gift wrap and it was very cool to have a personal note from one of the PEP representatives.  Even before seeing the shirt I was so impressed with PEP and their vision.  They are committed to using a renewable resource (merino wool) in order to enhance the running experience.  They have a plan to keep their prices low ($60 for a 97% high quality shirt is a bargain and a half!), produce in the USA, and contribute back to the environment.

The shirt itself is better than advertised.  I am glad that I went with the Shevlin+ rather than the basic Shevlin.  The + has heavier fabric which will provide more warmth in the coming months (“Winter is coming”).  Plus I just like the feel of a heavier shirt.  The fit is perfect being snug across my chest and a bit loose towards my waist.  When I first put the shirt on I was a bit surprised how low the neck went and was puzzled that the thumb holes seemed tough to get into.  Oops! I had the shirt on backwards.  Turns out that the small PEP logo is on you back.  Once I put the shirt on correctly, it was a perfect fit. Most importantly, I have found the ITCHYNESS factor to be almost zero.  I noticed a bit of itch during my first run when some heat started radiating from my torso, but it was gone within moments.  This amazes me with a shirt that is 95% Merino Wool. So far I have worn the Shevlin+ for runs in temps from 27 degrees (this morningd!) to the the mid 40s.  For all of the runs I have had my Saucony windbreaker on top (the reason to follow).  Cold has been a non factor and at the same time I have not been close to overheating.  The shirt has been very comfortable and it will probably all but displace my Nike DriFit Wool shirt (I like it but have some issues with the neck area) for cold weather running.

I am looking forward to trying a run without a top layer above my Shevlin+, but the black color option was not a good choice because I currently only have black running tights.  Without a top layer this is the effect:

I don’t want people to think they’re watching a public performance of modern dance during my runs, so it looks like a purchase of non-black bottoms is in order at some point.

I will provide some more insights on the Shevlin+ as I accumulate more miles in it. Will review my Nike DriFit soon as well.

See you on the road!

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Katie had a better comparison of my all black attire:

Breakfast Run: Abilene

Decided to stick closer to home after a morning 6 Miler.  I didn’t feel like I’d be up to a couple miles with a belly full of breakfast this morning and I also had a craving for one of my favorite dishes at Bayou Kitchen (right next door to Abilene).  Turned out that Bayou had 30 minute wait, so we decided to try the new place on the block.

I love having good eats being a short walk from our house.  We can enjoy the walk there and back on beautiful days or not have to worry about driving after enjoying some adult libations.  Country living does have an appeal, but certainly city convenience has its advantages.

I’m still trying to figure out why this place is called Abilene.  The food and setting didn’t make me think of Texas at all.  It’s a unique name and maybe it has significance to the owners.  The menu had about a dozen tasty sounding brunch options for this Saturday morning.  Reminded me a bit of Union from last week, but not quite as upscale.

The breakfast sandwich sounded very appetizing, but I am a sucker for Biscuits and Sausage Gravy.  I remember my first sausage gray experience.  It was in Basic Training in Fort Benning, Georgia.  In the chow line gobs of this strange white slime with brown chunks was being slopped onto our trays.  I was horrified!  I didn’t actually dare to eat this staple of Army cooking for at least a month until one day I was so hungry from training that I would have eaten my boots.  Turned out that Sausage Gravy was amazing.  During my time in the South (Georgia, Alabama, and the Carolinas) I hit every Shoney’s, Denny’s, Waffle House, Huddle House and local road house and was sure to order their biscuits and gravy (along with Grits, which I prefer with butter and syrup).  Talk about a serious comfort food!  Our move back to the northeast mostly put an end to my Sausage Gravy days, but it seems to be making an appearance on some local menus in recent months.  So far there have been some unique recipes, but I still think you have to go south of the Mason-Dixon line for authentic biscuits and gravy.  Here was Abilene’s:

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OK, that’s scary looking not the most appetizing image, but the gravy did have good flavor and consistency (not too salty or greasy) and the biscuit was good. One disappointment was that for $9.00, a couple of eggs would have been a nice addition.  I enjoyed my meal, but did not feel totally satisfied.  I did try a few bites of my son’s French toast and that was fantastic!

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Also, I had a Bloody Mary to start the meal and it was great.  Last week’s smoky version at Union was a bit of a turn-off, but Abilene’s version had a nice bit of heat and a healthy dose of vodka.  There were also plentiful olives and pickled peppers that added to the flavor.

Abilene is a nice compliment to Bayou Kitchen next door.  Bayou is still a better choice, but I’m ready to give Abilene another shot as part of a Breakfast or Happy Hour Run.

Breakfast Run to Union

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Sheesh.  Mike has been beating me in both blogging and running lately.  And it really doesn’t bother me at all.  We’re not competitive at all.  Umm, so. not. true.

Anyway, even though it’s been another Breakfast Run and a Happy Hour Run since our breakfast run to Union last weekend, I still want to record my thoughts on our lovely breakfast there.

I wanted to make sure we got at least eight miles in, so we took the long way to Union and got in about 5.5 miles before we arrived.  We met a running acquaintance of mine along the way.  Super nice guy who I’ve only ever met running.  Pretty sure he told me his name is Rex, but who’s named Rex anyway?  Maybe I have that wrong.

A few weeks ago, maybe a month ago, we had a delicious breakfast at The Corner Room which is right around the corner (pardon the pun) from Union Restaurant in the pretty-new Portland Press Hotel.  I had read about it, so we decided to walk through before we started running back home.  The decor was super cool especially one hallway where an entire large wall was decorated with old typewriters.  It was fun to look at those and reminisce about our days in typing class with Mrs. Sturdee.  I think we were the last class in our school to use manual typewriters.  Honestly, that was the most useful class I took in high school, but I digress.

After we walked into the hotel lobby, we decided to pop into the restaurant to scope it out for a later visit.  We’d already been thinking about trying to stop by for drinks after reading about it on Portland Food Map.  The host was super friendly, and even though we mentioned we’d already eaten, he invited us to look around and chatted with us about being “local”.  Last weekend, when we were looking for an early Breakfast Run, I went to my trusty Yelp app to see what would be open early.  With the early hour, and the places we’ve already tried, we were down to the bakeries and the hotel restaurants.  We didn’t hesitate when Yelp reminded us about Union.  (Granted, most of the reviews were about dinner, not breakfast.)

We had a pleasant, cheerful run on the way there.  It was chilly, 30-ish (which sadly will be excitingly warm in a few months).  We must have been in a really cheesy good mood because we actually broke into song a few times.  There’s race pace, conversational pace, and the little-known-singing pace.  (If you must know, both times we were crossing railroad tracks – Folsom Prison and City of New Orleans.)  Notably, it was our first day in tights (vs. shorts).
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The same friendly host welcomed us back.  The restaurant was pretty full, but we were able to get a table right away.  The decor is modern and very bright and airy which I liked.  Even though I brought dry clothes to change into (the host walked me all the way across the lobby to show me where the restroom was), I was still a bit chilly, but there was a cozy fireplace going in the lobby that we enjoyed for a few minutes before hitting the road again.

We ordered our favorite breakfast drinks, a mimosa for me and a Bloody Mary for Mike.  The mimosa was delicious with fresh-squeezed O.J., but it was fairly small.  Size-wise, I have yet to find a match for the Manmosa from Brian Boru.  Mike wasn’t crazy about the smoky flavor of the Bloody Mary.

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The menu didn’t have a ton of options (maybe 5 or so real breakfast options – I don’t count oatmeal or yogurt and granola), but I suppose that makes it easier to decide.  We were both intrigued by the European style, charcuterie-like Simple Beginnings breakfast which Mike ended up ordering.  I didn’t want to get the same thing, so I went with the French Toast, and I love me some breakfast potatoes, so I ordered a side of those as well.
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My French Toast (a.k.a Pain Perdu) was really good.  The bread was thick and light and airy and the butter plentiful.  There were some pretty berry garnishes and local maple syrup.
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I have to say though, that Mike’s breakfast was much more interesting.  I scattered some pieces of the cheddar from his plate on my breakfast potatoes and let it melt a bit (kind of like Raclette) and dipped it in the fennel mustard, and it was quite delicious.  (Pretty much hate fennel, but this was good.)  It’s mostly just on Easter that I have a nice thick slice of ham, but the ham (a.k.a Salumi) on his plate was also delicious and the fig jam reminded me of having a nice quince paste with a charcuterie plate.
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My only complaint about his meal was that the croissant that came with it was miniscule.  I like to have a bite of carb with each bite of protein, so I fully supported his idea to order a side of toast.

It was quite slow to come, so that was too bad, and when only one slice of toast arrived, I thought it a bit stingy, but it was delicious, and if I had to guess, I think it might have been a slice of pain de mie from one of our favorite local bakeries, Standard Baking Company.

Overall, it was a really nice experience.  As Mike said, service was a bit slow, but the wait staff was so friendly and apologetic, it was really fine.  At the end of our meal we were served an effervescent ginger carrot drink which was a really nice touch, kind of like a digestif.
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Most of the breakfast diners seemed to be staying at the hotel, so I’m not sure it’s become a standard Portland breakfast place –  yet.  We were a bit jealous of the hotel-stayers and vowed to book a night in the off-season.

Weighed down by drinks and breakfast, we got off to a somewhat slow start heading home, but after the slight uphill of Congress Street, we had a nice long downhill on State Street and made the last 2.5 miles home no problem even though the pace was quite a bit slower and there was no singing.

Thanks for reading.  Happy running.  And eating.

Happy Hour Run!!! : Bonobo (Pizza)

No glorious and wonderful before the sun Breakfast Run this time, but rather a Happy Hour Run!  We were looking to hit Miyake after a quick 5k Friday night run, but the 30 minute seating wait scared us off.  Around the corner and up a couple blocks was Bonobo which we had meant to hit for several years ever since one of our oldest son’s friend had been fired from there (that’s another story).

For the last few years, the Portland pizza scene has been dominated by Otto Pizza after taking the throne from the Flatbread Pizza.  Walk into Bonobo and it has a simple atmosphere with the sophisticated West End crowd.  I was sold on Bonobo after seeing the simple menu of a couple of salad offerings with a wide-array of beautiful “around 13 inch” pizza offerings.

When going to a pizza place for the first time, I like to try a simple offering such as cheese or a Margerhita offering with just a sprinkling of cheese and sauce.  Bonobo’s crust  has that brick oven flavor and the cheese and sauce had that fresh taste to it….Katie was looking for a more sophisticated taste with an arugula, goat cheese concoction, so we decided to split our pizza…

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Luckily the Bonobo servers were glad to provide that option along with a nice array of red and white wines and some nice draft options.  I initially went for the “Not Your Father’s Rootbeer” which was a change, but too sweet for this Jameson palate.

In all, Bonobo had great pizza, great service, and a great atmosphere.  The brick oven provided some welcome warmth after a quick evening run, and the cliental were some great folks from Portland’s West End.

Even though she was complained about some of my city running habits tonight…she’s always a SEXY runner:

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The TOMTOM Runner

My purchase of the TOMTOM runner came out of necessity.  Back in August, Katie surprised me with a gift of a Polar M400 for hitting the 1,000 mile mark for this year.  My first experience with a GPS watch was fantastic.  I had been relying on Runkeeper from my Iphone to give distance and pace updates.  This was great especially since I was still in headphones mode for all of my runs.  Additionally, I liked having runs instantly tracked on Runkeeper.  However, as I transitioned deeper into marathon preparation, I discovered the joy of running without headphones which made a GPS watch essential to feed my craving for stats.

The M400 worked great.  I found that it was right on with distance and it had cool features like split times.  I liked the M400 app, but it was frustrating to manually upload from the Polar app to Runkeeper. I have invested so many miles in Runkeeper that it is difficult for me to make a switch to another tracking app.  Problems came a couple weeks before the Maine Marathon when my M400 stopped charging.  I suspect the charging port became corroded due to sweat and moisture leaking into it.  Whatever the cause, there was not enough time to deal with warranty stuff and there was no way I was running the marathon without knowing my pace.

Katie and I headed out to Best Buy for another Polar.  While there, the Applewatch caught my eye…

Despite the $350 price tag, this seemed to be the perfect fit.  Linked directly to my iphone and Runkeeper.  Plus it is a cool piece of technology bling to flash around town. Unfortunately, my Apple Watch experience was a disappointment.  I did not like having to have my phone with me for runs in order for the GPS to work and on a couple of trial runs the watch kept pausing mid-run.  Maybe I should’ve given it more time, but for $350 I wanted my run tracking to be accurate and easy to use.  Apple watch has many other cool features, but run tracking is my main purpose and that had to be perfect.

So we loaded back into the VW Microbus(Thanksgiving is on my mind) our Honda and headed back to Best Buy.  I checked out the Fitbit Surge and a couple of other brands (I’m forgetting now), but in the end, my $100 was spent on this:

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The TOMTOM Runner is the lowest model of TOMTOM’s GPS watches.  The other models have bells and whistles like a heart rate monitors and swim tracking ability.  The Runner model has turned out to be a perfect fit.  Its charge lasts long,  the GPS has been very accurate,  it shows splits, and is very it also has many ways to customize its display for my use.  Best of all, TOMTOM automatically uploads to Runkeeper.  I aslo like that the charging port seems like it will hold up better to moisture than the M400.  It’s still less than a month, but time will tell.

The TOMTOM is a great entry level GPS watch.  It’s easy to figure out and has simple inputs for runners just looking for basic stats.  I suppose at some point I may just run for pure enjoyment and not care about the stats graduate to a more advanced watch, but for now the TOMTOM Runner works well for me.