Wednesday, June 22, 2016

2016 Racing Season: Pal-Mac XC Booster Club 2.3 Mile Spring Run, May 21, Palmyra, NY

The start at the Pal-Mac XC Booster Club 2.3 Mile Spring Run.
A week after my first race of the 2016 season, the Thom Bugliosi 13K, I drove over to Palmyra, NY, for the Palmyra-Macedon, (Pal-Mac) XC Booster Club 2.3 Mile Spring Run. The race was a fundraiser for the modified, (junior high), and high school XC teams at Pal-Mac and was organized and put on by the coaches, including my friend Ben, who invited me to the race.  This was a low cost, ($5), traditional XC race on a course around the grounds at the middle and high school properties.  The bibs were simple yellow strips with our registration info that we pinned onto our shirts.  There were 24 of us ranging in age from younger kids to older adults.  Weather was nice, perhaps a little humid.

The course started out looping around some of the various playing fields on the edge of the middle school with one short downhill.  As I approached this, the leader had already ascended back up the hill and was running the other way.  (I would later find out he was a young man on the XC team and likely will grow into a great runner.)  As we ran uphill, we came back around the baseball field and behind the track/football stands on a paved stretch and past the water station for the first time.

Then we headed down a little hill before going back up a steep one and into the parking lot connecting us to the field where the lacrosse team was practicing.  Fortunately, as we ran along the side of the field, they paid little attention to us, and I didn't get beaned in the head!!!  Then, after running behind one of the buildings and turning around, we went back past them on the other side of the field where they were practicing and downhill to the woods alongside the lower baseball field.  Finally we ascended uphill, past the water stop for the second time and onto the track for the last 200-300 meters.  At this time I was running about 5th but there wasn't quite enough space left to catch either 3rd or 4th.  The three of us seemed to be perfectly separated just right to ensure we couldn't catch each other.  

Finishing 5th on the track as my friend Ben calls out the time.
Even thought I was 5th overall, 2nd place was a man in my age group, so I missed an age group award, but had a great time, finishing in just under 20 minutes for a course around 2.3 miles. It's been a while since I raced that hard and fast, but it was good in the end.  They had some bananas for the finishers and you could buy inexpensive snacks at the concession stand where the profits also went to the team fundraiser.  The kid from the XC team took first overall, finishing in 15 minutes and change.  Ben, his fiancee, family, and fellow coach did a great job putting on a simple old school XC race and raising around $200 to help the team, not bad considering that it was done on a shoestring budget and without a ton of PR. Looking forward to the next one and bringing some of the family along with me!


Monday, June 20, 2016

Product Review: Amphipod Hydraform Ergo-Lite Ultra

The Amphipod Hydraform Ergo-Lite Ultra 20oz

"Disclaimer: I received an Amphipod Hydraform Ergo-Lite Ultra to review as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out BibRave.com to review find and write race reviews!"

In all honesty, I've pretty much given up on handheld water bottles.  I find that they can be cumbersome and more of a nuisance than they are sometimes worth.  Oftentimes the outer pack/sleeve slips around/off and has little, if anything, in the way of storage. But, I had seen others I knew with Amphipod products in the past and always envied them a little bit.  So, when I got a chance to test one, I thought I'd at least give it the old college try.

The 20 oz Hydraform ergonomic bottle with Jett-squeeze cap.

One of the first things noticeable about the Amphipod products, which is why I wanted to give them a try, is the ergonomic bottle.  (As well as the space alien green color which I've always thought was cool!)  The shape of the bottle along with the Thumb-Lock, (a part of the strap to put your thumb through for better overall hand grip), is designed to help eliminate the hand cramping tension often found with many traditional handheld bottle systems. On my test runs, I won't say that it prevented all the tension, but it certainly lessened it a great deal and did seem like a more natural hand position in which to carry a bottle.  If you have any carpal tunnel symptoms that appear when you use a handheld and you'd still prefer to run with a handheld, then I would strongly advise trying the Amphipod products.


Another plus to the bottle is the Jett-Squeeze cap.  This is guaranteed not to leak and also eliminates the need to pull open the tip of the bottle or bite a valve.  You simply squeeze the bottle and drink.  

The bottle also has a very wide mouth which allows for easy access to mix in sports drink, add ice, or clean the bottle.  (And did I mention the cool space alien greenish yellow color?)





The outer sleeve for the handheld system fits the bottle snugly.  I will note, that while it is a little hard to get back onto the bottle when prepping for a run, this is a plus in the long run, because the sleeve grips that bottle for dear life!  It is not going to slip off, which is a huge plus during a longer run.  The sleeve is also insulated, so it helps keep the bottle cooler longer and your hands from getting so slippery and wet which can occur with other systems when ice melts or the humidity is something fierce!

The pocket on the sleeve is cavernous as you can see above and includes a key fob and ID pocket.  How cavernous?  Let's find out...Okay, I'm back.


I just stuck all this in the pocket of the Amphipod Hydraform Ergo-Lite Ultra pocket.


I just stuck in some cash, a car key, 2 band-aids, some salt tabs, a food packet, my phone, and a baker's dozen of Gin-Gins...and I probably could have added a few more.  Like I said, cavernous.  In addition, as you can see in the pic below, the hand strap has 3 quick access gel slots if you so desire to use them.  






Amphipod gives a lifetime guarantee covering defects in materials and craftmanship. Amphipod is definitely seeking to think outside the box, and has come up with a great alternative that I believe will work for many who may be struggling, (like myself), with some of the current handheld options out there.  Now go out and run!



From left to right: Sleeve, tags, bottle, Jett-Squeeze cap.  :) 






Wednesday, June 15, 2016

2016 Racing Season: Thom Bugliosi 13K, May 14, Hammond Hill State Forest, NY




Part of the 13K trail loop for the Thom B 13K, 26K, & 52K in Western NYS.

This year's racing season has gotten off to a slow start.  Originally I was scheduled to race the Hawkeye 25K back in April, but couldn't due to the fact that I was in New York State at the time interviewing for a new job.  So, while continuing to look for a new job as well as a new home for my family and I, I have had the opportunity to meet up with some of the local trailrunners in the Rochester, NY, area, especially through trailsroc.org.  One of them, Anne, is also a friend of mine on Twitter.  So, back on May 14, we carpooled along with a friend of hers, Shari, our driver as well, and headed down to Hammond Hill State Forest to run the Thom Bugliosi trail races, aka, the Thom B Trail Runs. On offer was a 13K loop, which you could race once, twice, or four times.  The 52K started awhile before us, but the 26K & 13K runners started together that morning.  Anne and Shari were running the 26K, but I decided to elect for just the 13K since my training had been somewhat all over the place in recent weeks.  Much of this course takes in the Finger Lakes Trail, a well known trail system in the area.

Heading out of a beautiful stretch of pines and into the sun on the Thom B course.

After the start, we headed up a dirt road that eventually went from double-track to single-track.  I started out a little quicker than I probably should have that morning, typical first race day of the season antics.  The course went back and forth between beautiful, but often technical single-track, to easier double-track.  As typical with much of Northeast trailrunning, there are lots of roots to be aware of as potential tripping hazards.  It had been several years since I had run out East, but I remembered fondly those first trail runs I ever did in Massachusetts and all the roots along the way.


Anne coming off the trails to start her second 13K loop.

I had the good fortune of running behind one of the race directors for a while who was running herself with Margaret Webb, author of Older, Faster, Stronger: What Women Runners Can Teach Us All About Living Younger, Longer.  I say good fortune, because I think I would have missed an important right hand turn about 8K in or so that I believe others did miss.  This stretch was a bit of route finding at times as it went over little streams and under trees.  Definitely worth having the Co-RD in front of you!  
Shari coming around to start her second 13K loop just a few minutes behind Anne.

 As I noted, my training has been a bit inconsistent due to the major transitions going on in our family's lives right now, so I found myself lacking a bit of the endurance that was such a strength last year through the mountains of Montana, South Dakota, Wyoming, and Colorado.  (Aka, I walked more than I probably should have during the race!!!)  The final downhill to the dirt road and into the finish area was very welcome and I was glad to push it through the final stretch and cross the line, finishing 71st out of 90.  Welcome to NYS trails!


A group shot before the start, from L to R, Brad, Shari, Anne.
Anne and Shari finished the 26K together in 26th and 27th, doing a great job!


The Thom B races were run well, had a great course, and good eats afterwards including hot coffee which hit the spot in the cooler weather, and cannoli chips with frosting spread!!! What is that!?!  It was awesome!!!  Totally made the suffering worth it.  Many other people from the TrailsRoc group ran one of the three distances, so we hung around to see them finish, including some tough 52K finishers.  

Even in the midst of our struggles and sufferings, God so awesomely provides, and that was true this day, a great day at a great race with great new friends.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Product Review: Luvo Entrees, including: Chicken Chile Verde, Chicken in BBQ Sauce, Tandoori-Inspired Spiced Chicken, Orange Mango Chicken, and Roasted Vegetable Lasagna





"Disclaimer: I received 5 Luvo, Inc entrees to review as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out BibRave.com to review find and write race reviews!"

To be perfectly honese, I had never heard of Luvo, Inc., or their great tasting, awesomely made meals until I had the option to review them as part of being a BibRave Pro.  If you get a chance, go to their website at luvoinc.com and watch this cute, little video about how their company started: The Luvo Story.

Luvo meals come in a Steamazing pouch that aids in helping the meal cook evenly and lock in the various flavors.  I was glad to learn that while the Luvo entrees can be cooked in the microwave, they can also be cooked the more traditional way in the oven, which is my preference.  Luvo sources their ingredients from quality sources and 3 of the 5 entrees I received were gluten-free. None of them had any artificial colors, flavors, or sweeteners.  Pretty awesome!  


Luvo's Chicken Chile Verde w/Black Beans & Polenta

The first meal I had was Chicken Chile Verde with Black Beans & Polenta.  As Luvo notes, the food comes out of the bag plating well as if you were served in a fancy restaurant.  The first bite was tasty, with just a hint of spice, but mild.  The chicken was thoroughly cooked through and tasted like a true quality piece of actual chicken as opposed to many other frozen food meals. The polenta was nice and fluffy.  The beans and sauce helped bring out the flavor.  While not a huge meal at 300 calories, it was filling and quite good.  If I was ranking it 1 - 5, with 5 as the highest, I'd give this one a 5.  I would definitely buy this one again when I go shopping.


Luvo's Chicken in BBQ Sauce w/Millet Grits & Collard Greens

The second entree got to enjoy was the Chicken in BBQ Sauce with Millet Grits & Collard Greens.  Words like "grits" and "collard" might be fancy to some, scary to others.  I am not sure if I've ever had grits, but these were fine, if a little bland. Perhaps that's how grits are?  The collard greens were very good, and I wanted more of them, bummed a bit that some of them unfortunately stuck to the Steamazing bag in the cooking process and wouldn't come off/out.  The chicken was again, just like restaurant quality, wonderful.  This dish was very tasty and not too spicy.  I would probably buy this one again too, but would want the greens not to stick to the bag!!!  I think I'd give this one a 4.5.


Luvo's Tandoori-Inspired Chicken w/Mango, Brown Jasmine Rice, Broccoli & Cauliflower

The third entree I prepared and ate, I had for lunch as opposed to supper/dinner.  This one was a spicier dish, Tandoori-Inspired Spiced Chcken with Mango, Brown Jasmine Rice, Broccoli & Cauliflower.  This tasted to me like a good old Indian curry dish, yet the curry wasn't overpowering and the sauce wasn't heavy.  The chicken was, once again, high quality and the vegetables were steamed nicely.  The main hiccup was that the rice came out just a bit mushy.  Not very much so, just a bit.  Perhaps I over/under cooked it?  Not so troubling it ruined the meal.  Once again, I'd give this a 4.5.


Orange Mango Chicken waiting to go thru Steamazing!
Orange Mango Chicken w/Whole Grains, Broccoli & Kale

The fourth entree I tried was Orange Mango Chicken with Whole Grains, Broccoli & Kale.  This meal had actual slices of mango in it, which cooked perfectly and complimented the chicken well.  As always, the food tasted fresh from the fruit, to the meat, to all the vegetables and grains.  The kale and broccoli were a nice mix and the sauce was not too heavy or syrupy. It did not taste like the funky processed orange sauce that often accompanies many orange chicken dishes in restaurants.  A little bit of the quinoa & rice stuck to the bag, but otherwise it plated fine.  I would give this a 4.5 as well.


Roasted Vegetable Lasagna w/Butternut Squash, Whole Wheat Noodles & Kale

My final entree was a Roasted Vegetable Lasagna w/Butternut Squash, Whole Wheat Noodles & Kale.  (I have to say, I am so glad to try so many dishes that included kale.  I love kale.  We make kale chips all the time and my two youngest kids and I love them, usually inhaling them within minutes.)

Luvo's lasagna is just 250 calories!  It tasted great with several nice tender pieces of butternut squash. If my wife were here looking over my shoulder, she would express great surprise at that last comment.  I do not really care for squash, in fact growing up, I had a hate/hate relationship with it. Only now will I occasionally eat some pieces of sliced, roasted squash in some mixed vegetables. The squash Luvo included in this lasagna was actually tasty and very enjoyable as were the rest of the vegetables that made up this lasagna and there were at least 5 or more in addition to the squash.  Basil was also a major spice and complemented the whole meal nicely.  There was no greasy meat, heavy sauce, (though there was natural sauce from the tomatoes and vegetables), and just enough ricotta cheese.  Very mild, not too spicy.  I would give this a 4.5 too.

These are the best frozen meals I think I have ever had, period.  ( One 5 and four 4.5's I think proves that!) They are low calorie and taste amazing, due mostly to the quality pieces of meat, farm fresh tasting vegetables, and just the right amount of spice being perfectly cooked in the Steamazing pouch. Check out their website, Luvoinc.com where you can find some coupons to get started on a taste journey you will love when time is of the essence and you want a high quality meal.  




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