A Proper Crossing: A Coffee Oasis during a Long Run – The Proper Cup

I set out on a run yesterday with three goals: 1) Run at a liesurely an easy pace, 2) Run ten miles for a longer distance that usual, and 3) finally get across the Casco Bay Bridge during a run from home after several failed attempts.  I’m excited report the I for once met all of the goals.  It was a struggle and there were some necessary walk breaks, but it got done and there was a bonus stop at an oasis for an Iced Latte. Here’s where the run took me:

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Back in the days of being in better shape our original runs across the bridge, mile 3 would come when we were just about half way across the bridge, but of course that route involved the utter Hell of climbing Portland’s State Street hill, which is quite a climb.  I had the bright idea to find a route with less of an incline by running out by the Fore River campus of Mercy Hospital.  I did appreciate some downhill terrain, but there still was a fair share of hills and I underestimated the extra distance to get to the bridge (it added an extra mile).  Due to the extra distance and my fading endurance I changed my run to just getting across the bridge and then heading home rather than a running tour of South Portland.  Although it was a quick turn around in SoPo, I did have nice time running through the Knightville neighborhood.

On the way back home, I did make it up to the top of State Street, but at a considerably slower pace.  It then hit me that I needed a pit stop.  I found an oasis at The Proper Cup.

Before getting to my run stop at Proper Cup, Katie and I recently did a Bike for Breakfast there and enjoyed a nice time, some coffee, and a tasty breakfast sandwich.

I’m not a seasoned veteran of many coffee houses, but I love the atmosphere of Proper Cup.  Of course the first time I went there, the first thing to catch my eye was the Honda motorcycle perched on top of the creamer station.  I don’t know the significance of the bike, but I will have to ask some time.  There also is a lot of cool local art on the walls.  Our favorites are in the background of picture of the Honda.  They’re ink sketches of animals with a story included.  We actually met the artist there one Saturday, and he told us that the sketches were of animals he had encountered during his travels.

What drew me to Proper Cup for our bike adventure was a sign I noticed that morning saying that they now had breakfast sandwiches.  Previously, I think they only offered pastries with their coffee.  I went for the Veggie which had egg, mozzarella, tomato, cucumber, and spinach on an English muffin.  The sandwich was good and was plenty filling along with my Iced Latte.  I am wondering if they make the sandwiches on site, but Katie informed that the sandwiches are made by Sisters Gourmet Deli.  We will have to plan an excursion there soon to try something freshly made.

275px-MRE_No._23_(cropped)Speaking of the Iced Latte, I have to say that I am not really a coffee aficionado.  In fact, I remember my first foray into the coffee world being the instant coffee packs inside Army MREs.  For a boost we would empty the instant coffee grounds, powder creamer, and sugar packet into our mouths and then wash it down with a swig from our canteen.  I’ve yet to see that available on the menu boards in any of our local coffee shops.

I see all the names on the menu at coffee shops and really have no idea what they’re all about.  For a while I was into Flat Whites, because they were being reintroduced at Starbucks a while back and I wanted the baristas to think I was some old school coffee-ite happy that a classic offering was back on the menu.  Currently, Iced Lattes are my thing since Montreal.  I like Katie’s Mocha Lattes, so I order the Latte to be a little different.  I really quite like them now.  I especially like Proper Cup’s iced latte served in the large mason jar glass.  It’s a refreshing drink and lasts long enough for some good coffee shop conversation.  Bottom line is we both really enjoy trips to Proper Cup and highly recommend it.  In fact, some days you might find Katie doing some online work there (she is a bit of a regular).

Back to my Coffee Run…

By the time I hit Forest Ave (a little past mile 6), I was really fading.  My walk and run intervals were becoming increasingly equal in time.  First I saw the “OPEN” flag for Rose Food, but managed to push on.  Finally, I saw Proper Cup two blocks away and pushed a sprint there.

I was a bit conscious of that fact that I was dripping in sweat and felt a bit awkward walking in wearing a Camelback compared to the nicely summer-attired mostly Millennial weekday crowd.  Somehow, I feel my lack of coffee knowledge makes a bit unsophisticated for the coffee shop scene, but I went for it anyway.  Fortunately, I had brought a little cash in my Camelback pouch and put in my order for a large Iced Latte at $4.75 plus a $1.00 tip in the jar.

The latte was ready in a couple minutes, and for a special treat, I went to the Honda motorcycle station and added some simple syrup rather than my usual two packets of Splenda.  I figured six miles earned some high octane sweetener.  I found a corner by the window and just enjoyed a few minutes of AC and a nice beverage to give me a final boost back home.

Seeing a giant squash growing on the sidewalk of Danforth Street with “VOTE” carved into it was an intresting sight along the route.  The other pics include views along the Casco Bay Bridge, the fountain at Deering Oaks Park and part of Woodfords Corner. 

The final leg of the run was nice.  The pit stop at Proper Cup was just what I needed to shorten the walk intervals and get up the final hill on Woodford Street.  At the end, Runkeeper had me over eight miles!  Of course the f&!&ing “Fix GPS” feature on the app put my distance under eight and added ages to my average pace (more on that in future post).  All in all, the whole event was a great ending to the morning.

Whether drive, walk, bike, run or ride a Honda, make your way to Proper Cup.  You won’t be disappointed.

See you on the road!

-Mike

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Cold Weather is here: What I’m wearing.

This year has not exactly been a typical Maine winter, especially after our record 70 degree Christmas Day. Today we received a small taste of winter with morning temps of 20 degrees (Fahrenheit) with a wind chill of 12 degrees.  Finally a chance to wear some winter gear without fear of over-heating.  I don’t always get this right, but today I had the perfect combination of gear that prevented me from being too cold, too hot or chafed at the end of this 15 mile jaunt through our neighborhood (lots of loops today in Evergreen Cemetery to protect from the wind).  To quote Goldilocks it was “Just Right!”

From the inside out, here was my gear for the day:

  1. ICEBREAKER Antomica Briefs: These have been a revelation for running.  Previously I had been using synthetic compression shorts from Nike and Under Armor.  They were good, but chafing was still an issue for longer runs. The Icebreaker briefs are 100% merino wool (not itchy at all); they have kept me dry down there and I have had zero chafing in those unmentionable parts!  FYI: they run small, so be sure to order 1 or 2 sizes up.

Anatomica Briefs

2. Mizuno Breath Thermo Layered Tights: I bought these last year at Fleet Feet in Portland.  They are synthetic (nowadays I’d probably get wool tights), but they have a great feel.  I have worn these in temps as low as 10 below zero (F) and my legs have never felt cold.  An added bonus is the the compression feel of these tights that seem to give my legs an added boost in those hellbacious later miles.  They require more washing than wool due to odor, but I’m sure to baby them by washing in cold water only and never put them in the dryer.  These have held up well.

Mizuno Running Men Training Apparel Bottoms Pants

3. PEP Shevlin + Running Shirt: I reviewed this shirt and company back in October.  All I can say is “AWESOME!” This is the perfect wool base layer.  Its water wicking is amazing and the shirt’s durability has been off the charts.  Also, ZERO nipple chafing!  Not sure if the ladies out there have this issue, but it can be excruciating, especially that first trip under the shower after the run.  I almost could have went with this as my only layer under my jacket, but I was feeling a bit wimpy for the first sub 20 degree run of the month.

4. Darn Tough Socks: Like the PEP shirt, Darn Tough Socks can’t be beat.  My Adidas Ultra Boosts are wonderful running shoes, but the mesh top provided virtually no warmth.  Not a problem with Darn Toughs even if I manage to trek through a puddle one mile into a double digit run.  For winter runs I prefer the crew socks with light cushion in order to avoid chilly ankles.

Light Hiker Micro Crew Light Cushion / Charcoal/Lime / M Small

5. IBEX Stretch Merino Glove Liners: I have used these for every run in November and December in temperatures ranging from today’s 20 degrees F (windchill of 12) up to 50 degrees.  They have been terrific.  My hands have been dry and warm without another glove on top.  Today I did use the “hobo” glove top from the PEP shirt and they both held up well after the initial chilly fingers during the first mile.

Lightweight insulating stretch Merino glove liner

6. IBEX Indie Skimmer Hat: For outer layers, IBEX seems to be the winner for providing the most warmth.  This hat is like a nuclear power plant on my head.  In fact, I revert to my SMARTWOOL hat for temps above freezing because the IBEX wool is so warm.  For today’s run this was ideal though.  Never had to shed it and despite being soaked with sweat my head was warm from start to finish.

Unisex's - Indie Skimmer Hat

7. SAUCONY Run Strong Sportop: I wore another layer above my base PEP layer mainly because I wanted coverage around my neck.  Like IBEX’s wool, SAUCONY’s synthetic fabric seems to be the best.  It has a soft feel and a comfortable fit.  Last winter, this was my usual base layer, but chafing was the issue as was the case with all other synthetics I wore.  This shirt performs well by itself on warmer days (45-55) and I like the quarter zip for venting if I get overheated.

RUN STRONG SPORTOP, Tangelo, dynamic

8. ASICS Lined Winter Running Jacket: I’ll have to check on the model, but the Asics jacket I have was a wonderful purchase.  I bought it last year on clearance at Sports Authority.  The jacket features side pockets and a very handy breast pocket where I store my phone with headphones coming out.  The warmth of this pocket is great because I have been finding that my Iphone 6 will shut down at the slightest sense of low temperature (very frustrating when using Runkeeper to track the run).  It is lined with a waffled liner that dries out quickly after the run.  Additionally the extra long cut and sleeves with attached “hobo” gloves help to provide a very protective outer shell.  My jacket has weathered snow, sleet, hail, and low temps like a champ!  If I was a Mail Carrier, I’d wear this jacket.

9. Adidas Ultra Boost Shoes: I wear these no matter what the weather, but I thought I’d include them here.  Will do a more thorough review at some time, but my third pair of Ultra Boosts this year continue to impress.

A fun part of running is the gear.  One thing about winter running is that there is a lot more gear that is required, but it is fun to search out the best in that quest for the perfect run.

See you on the road!

 

 

 

Getting Antsy

Ugh!  This is not a pretty picture:

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I’ve been on the sidelines this week trying to heal what I suspect is an IT band injury (Iliotibial Band Syndrome – ITBS).  It’s weird because it only starts hurting while running.  It first cropped up about a month ago starting around mile 9 of longer runs, but it has been starting progressively earlier.  On my my most recent run, I felt the sharp pain on my outer right knee at the end of mile one.  I’ve tried icing and some exercises, but Katie convinced me to take a week off.  That’s a hard thing to do!

My biggest fear about taking extended time off is that I will not return to regular running (this has happened before).  We are racing a 5k this upcoming weekend, so I’m hopeful that will spur me back into action.  The really scary thing is that I have a read a lot of ITBS horror stories of people being sidelined for weeks or months before fully healing.  I’m hoping 7 days off does the trick or else I’m gonna have to rethink my menu choices!

See you on the road (hopefully soon)!

Want to run with me today?

I’m doing a 16-miler, but you can join me anywhere along the route.

Sixteen miles is about where it gets intimidating for me.  It’s where I draw the line and carry my pack with water.  I have a love-hate relationship with the damn thing.   I need it, and it enables me to carry other things, too; my phone, some Gus, my debit card (in case of emergency bakery stop), my gloves that I always end up stripping after a mile or two.  BUT, the sound of the water sloshing DRIVES ME CRAZY!!!  Does anyone else have this problem?  Is it me?  Is it my pack?  Should I just always use headphones on my long runs, so I won’t hear it?

Unlike many people, I love an out-and-back.  Well, I don’t love the out, but I do love the back.  I tell myself that I’m just going to do 8 then come home.  For some reason, that’s seems different from telling myself that I’m going to do 16.  I’m always in a much better mood after the turnaround.

So back to our run together, we had a great conversation on the way out about Christmas; shopping, traditions, etc., random running stuff, and the like.  Now we’re finally almost on the way back.

I’ve run past Fort Williams Park and Portland Headlight hundreds of times.  I don’t know why it never occurred to me to actually run into Fort Williams Park, but that’s what we’ll do today, and of course it’s gorgeous.
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This is the first view we see as we come into the park.  Promising . . .

We crest a nasty hill and are treated to this view.  Not bad.Untitled

Let’s not think about running back up this steep hill we’re enjoying running down.

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Finally, we’re at the lighthouse.  Let’s stop our watches and walk around for a bit.
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Not sure the iPhone does justice to the most photographed lighthouse in the US, but we’ll do our best.
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Better keep going.  Oh wait, here’s another good view.

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Wow, there’s some other interesting photo ops and more tourists and locals walking their dogs than I would expect this early.  Let’s wait until we’re on the way back though for any more pictures.  It’s crazy to be stopping every 30 seconds.  Let’s try to get to mile 8 in the park.

Whew, finally hit mile 8.  Let’s do just a tiny bit extra, just in case, then turn around.  Here’s one of the creepy military thingies.  I’m sure it was busy and not creepy in its time.
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Here’s another great view of the lighthouse on the way back.  You can see another lighthouse on the right.  In my sailing days, I probably knew what it was called.  Bird-poop Light, I think.

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Time go go back up that nasty hill.  No worries, more great views at the top.
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Nice excuse to stop to catch our breath for another picture.

Okay, time to get serious and quit stopping every few minutes.  We have at least a couple of miles until the next photo op.  Well wait, there are some pretty nice Christmas decorations.  Oh, and my favorite fancy house along the route.  No, stop (well don’t), let’s have some discipline.

A couple miles later, we arrive in Williard Square.  As usual Scratch is busy.
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Do we want to stop there for a treat to bring home?  Or go off the route a bit for Portland Patisserie?  Or hit up our regular stop at Tandem?

Nah, let’s keep going.  Mike’s taking some time off to nurse his hurt knee, so I’m sure he’ll have the mimosas waiting for us at home.

We’re at about mile 11 now, should we have that other Gu?  Let’s wait and see if there’s a gazillion ducks at mile 12 then decide.  The ducks were there on the way out but only 4 stragglers on the way back.  Not worth taking the phone out.  We’ve stopped enough already.  Let’s totally forget about the Gu and admire the view back into Portland.
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Alright, fine, we can do without the Gu. Only a little over 3 miles left, and we’re climbing back up to the bridge. Let’s stop and take another picture of Portland.
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One more little climb, and we’re on the bridge.
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Once we’re halfway across, we can look at the Time and Temperature building to see how hard core we are for running in the cold and estimate when we’ll get home. Wow, it’s already 45 degrees. We were hard core for starting at 27 degrees though. Due home around 10.

Woo hoo. Finally back in Portland.
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Ugh. Coming back up State is harder than usual. Should have had that Gu.

Aaah. Finally at the top. My dang phone is too sweaty to take a picture, so we spend at least a minute fidgeting with that. Don’t know about you, but I’m not minding the break at this point.

Finally get the phone working and take a picture of Longfellow himself all decked out for Christmas.  Last chance for Tandem.
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Now we just have 2 miles left and great downhill stretch down State St.

Aaah, Home Sweet Home.
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Come on in for a mimosa. (My favorite recipe is Contadino Sparking Pinot Grigio from Trader Joe’s with a splash of grapefruit juice.)
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Thanks for joining me! You in for next week?  It will be a much shorter run at Portland Brewer’s Holiday Dash 5K, and you can join me for real. There are still openings.  There will be brunch and lots of beer.  You can’t go wrong!

Good Mail Day

This came for me today.
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I’m super excited even though it’s a long way off. This will be my second Boston Marathon. I was so nervous for the first one (you can read my recap on my old blog here), and I certainly will be for this one, but I think I’ll be able to enjoy it a bit more. Now that I have seen the size of the expo, I’m going to plan to spend a lot more time (and money) there.

We have Austin to do before then (can you think of a more romantic thing to do on Valentine’s Day?), and April seems so far away that I haven’t put much thought into it yet, but I do want to consider what I’ll do differently this time (besides, of course, more shopping).

Anyone else out there doing Boston?

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!

Photos on the Run

Do you take pictures while you’re running?  I’ve heard of a lot of people doing this during races and many others frowning upon it.  I don’t feel strongly about it either way, but I do know that I don’t want to carry my phone during a race or lose precious seconds to take a photo.

However, for me, taking pictures during a regular old training run is a different story.  When it started getting cold around this time last year, I needed a little something extra to help motivate me to get out the door for a run in the wee dark hours of the morning.  It was really small, but I decided I would take a picture – just one – each day that I ran.  It was nice to have something else to think about besides how miserable I was to be running (even though I really wasn’t once I started).  I spent a lot of time on each run thinking about what my picture of the day would be.  It was a rough winter for us here in Maine, so it also helped my to try to see some beauty in the gray, desolate landscapes of our neighborhood.

Here are a few of my favorites:

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And I have to throw this one in there.  It’s not pretty, but it was the first peak of bare pavement I’d seen in months, in late February.  It was such a beautiful site at the time.
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I took a picture like that every day for about four months.  It was great.  Then, I finally got a GPS watch (a Polar M400) and slowly got away from carrying my phone and also taking pictures.  It was so beautiful when I started running again last Thursday that I decided to bring my phone and snap a few photos.

I only have a few items of running clothes that have big enough pockets to hold my phone.  It was a bit too warm for a jacket, so it required some creative dressing.
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Unfortunately, it took quite a while for it to get light out, since it was quite a bit cloudier than the day before.  (On a side note, I was feeling quite invincible with my new head lamp and decided to go down a desolate dirt road that I normally enjoy running on in the day light.  Shortly after I turned down the road and started feeling a little nervous, I saw a dark, shadowy figure, dressed in mostly navy.  I hoped feverishly for it to be a tree stump until I saw it starting to move.  I was about to have my worst running experience ever and was on the verge of screaming and sprinting back in the other direction when I realized it was my shadow.  Whew.)

I never seem to be able to capture the beauty I can see with my eyes with my camera, but I enjoyed trying.  Here’s what I ended up with:

PicMonkey Collage

I saw a few really mini cameras at Best Buy recently which intrigued me a bit.  I really don’t like to be encumbered in any way when I’m running, so those are tempting.  Will need to do more research.

Hope you all had a great weekend.  We had a busy one with our youngest daughter’s First Communion and Confirmation, but we did manage to squeeze in a Breakfast Run to Union Restaurant in the fairly new Portland Press Hotel.  Reviews coming soon.