Thursday, July 13, 2017

2017 Racing Season: Shipyard Old Port Half Marathon, July 8, Portland, ME

The expo/packet p/up for the Shipyard Old Port Half Marathon was located just down the street from the brewery on the water.

Disclaimer: I received a free race entry to the Shipyard Old Port Half Marathon to review as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out to find and write race reviews.

Fall of 2009 was the last time I officially ran a half marathon race on the roads.  A couple of years after that, I turned back to the trails and while extending my distance up to 50K, I can only think back to one time when I actually ran on the roads for 13 miles during those years. It was an early morning run under threatening skies.  I just remember afterward hurting from the pounding so much more so than on the local gravel roads or trails.

This year, with my training way less than in previous years as well as a continual case of PF, a half marathon is probably a good distance for me, but what would the roads bring?  Daily abuse on my foot from retail work and/or running was not making things very easy.  In addition, having a large family and strange schedule make it hard to get out to run.  Going to Portland, ME to run a half on the roads was going to be interesting for sure, but my wife and I looked forward to a few days away in a locale where I lived long ago in a galaxy far, far away!!!

My yacht, ready to take me to distant islands...or maybe not!

Unfortunately, my wife wasn't able to make it, so I had to make the 8+ hour drive alone.  I got up to Portland in the mid-afternoon and after checking into the hotel, headed down to the water where packet pick-up and the race expo awaited at one of the boat terminals out on a pier.

When I went in to pick-up my bib and swag, they couldn't find my number and then asked if I was a VIP.  I was, and they pointed my back to the door, where a special location for our pick-up was located as soon as you entered.  How sweet!  I got my bib, pins, and info and then took a quick look around at the expo.  The expo wasn't huge, but it did have everything one would basically need to kit up and get any sports nutrition if you left everything behind or lost it on the way.  

Some nice swag, especially as a VIP.
As a VIP, I got a nice bag, special bathroom bracelet for our own porta-potties(1), a nice tech shirt, VIP parking, and a a beer glass, (plus I ordered one).  Cool!  Definitely a nice haul especially along with the medal pictured below which also doubles as a bottle opener:

This pic used from the Shipyard Old Port Half Marathon archives.
The next morning I arrived early for my wave 2, 7:03 am start and though it took a few minutes to figure out where to park, I ended up almost directly across from the finish line!  

Sometime before 6:30am a local radio DJ, (I'm assuming), welcomed us in a sort of island style, (he was barefoot and reminded me of someone from a reggae band!), and definitely was chilled and excited to welcome us to the race.  (I thought in hindsight, this guy would be even more comfortable at an uber-relaxed trail race in the mountains or along the coast!)  A good pic for emcee.  

I lined up in the second wave according to expected time and chatted with another runner. Eventually the first wave started, with a cannon blast to boot, and then we were shortly going as well.

While I waited, I imagined these were the heads of zombie monsters coming up out of the oozy ocean!!!

The race started with a 5-6 mile out and back loop that wound up to what I remember calling the western promenade of Portland near the old hospital and overlooking some of the city. The first flat stretch was crowded as we made our way to the first hills, and during that time I met one of my other fellow BibRave Pros, Sam.  She was doing well and we would go back and forth a few times during the race.  I chose to walk some of the hills in order to make sure I'd finish okay later.  It was a pretty nice first half of the course winding up to the promenade and there were several water stops to refill.  After we wound back down, we shot back the way we came and went back by the starting line out toward the other side of the bay as seen below around mile 7:

Portland has some great views!
Shortly after that, we ran a paved trail near the highway and then got onto the crushed gravel/limestone trail around the Back Bay area of Portland. I use to drive this area long ago when I lived in one of the suburbs and would go into town looking for things to do.  There were several more water/Gatorade stations as well as several wet cloth stations which felt very good on the neck and face.

After running around the bay, we had a little out and back stint before heading back along the water to the pier and the finish line.  This area too was very attractive and though we were finishing up, I actually stopped to take this pic too:

I don't usually stop in the last mile or two of a race, but I did this time for another nice pic of Portland.
As I came to the line, I strove to finish well, but not having run a road race in a while, I forgot how super-competitive some road runners are as 5-6 rushed to pass me at the line, even though we were competing for like 1800th place!!!

Through the Race Joy app, I had results within minutes after picking up my medal and getting some food.  If there was one facet of the race that I would rate below what I expected, it was the food.  While we did get two Shipyard Beers, which I couldn't finish but at least got to taste as I had to get ready to drive down to Massachusetts within an hour or so, the food was very limited. You got a slice of pizza, a small Kind bar, and then there were some small packs of pretzels/chips, and a few fruit options.  

In conclusion however, it was a well run race, great venue, great title sponsor, nice swag, and an RD that though I didn't meet him, was definitely around the hubbub of the race doing his job, and I've been an RD, so I know the demands that puts upon you.  I'm thankful to BibRave to letting me represent them and the Shipyard Old Port Half Marathon for welcoming me back to some old haunts.
Will we see you at the start next year?

Getting ready to take a pic in the last 2 miles!

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Product Review: Luvo Healthy Frozen Meals-Several Varieties

Orange Mango Chicken still one of my favorites.

Disclaimer: I received a several coupons to get free Healthy Frozen Meals from Luvo Inc to review as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out to find and write race reviews.

I first discovered Luvo meals last year when I tested them as many of you read about here: Product Review: Luvo Entrees.  Now this year, I am back trying them again, this time including some an old favorite and some new ones as well.  

As noted last year, Luvo meals come in a Steamazing pouch that aids in helping the meal cook evenly and lock in the various flavors.  Luvo entrees can be cooked in the microwave, but they can also be cooked the more traditional way in the oven, which is my preference. Luvo sources their ingredients from quality sources and none of them had any artificial colors, flavors, or sweeteners.  Pretty awesome!  

An old favorite: Orange Mango Chicken with Whole Grains, Broccoli & Kale.  This is possibly still my favorite.  The chicken is tender with a flavorful sauce.  The mango is yummy, nice and fresh.  The whole grains, kale and broccoli are not only tasty but super healthy.  Only 280 calories!!!  5/5.

Get this one for sure!!!

A great soup or appetizer: Chicken & Corn Chowder with white chicken, kale, sweet potato & white beans in a savory dijon-herb base.  I came home from a long weekend travelling and racing, to head right into work the next day.  When I got home that night, dinner wasn't quite ready, so this dish I microwaved, (which is the only one of these I have done that with), and ate it as a pre-dinner appetizer.  The Luvo bowls have a thin film over them, kind of like an old TV tray dinner that you take off at the end if you microwave, or about halfway if you cook them in the oven.  This dish took about 5 minutes to microwave and was only 300 calories.  It had plenty of chicken, kale, and corn.  It was very tasty with a slight hint of sweetness.  It was not too creamy as some chowders can get, and overall, was very yummy! 4.75/5.

This pic taken from the website of the Chicken & Corn Chowder, or Chowdah as we say it in New England!

Another tasty one: Red Wine Braised Beef & Polenta.  This one was a bit trickier to get out of the bag than some of the others, but it was again, very tasty.  The beef was tender and the cranberries and butternut squash gave it a nice flavoring.  The brussel sprouts were okay, but seemed a bit forced, especially with there just being 2 in the bag.  The polenta was okay, but as I said, the star of this show was the tender chunks of beef. 4.25/5.

Another tasty one at only 250 calories!

Spicy Thai is very good despite the sweating!!!
A spicy bite: Thai-Style Green Curry Chicken.  This one is not for the faint of heart.  It says medium spice on it, but as I had a double portion, the curry hit good and hard and I was sweating.  Some of the noodles did stick to the bowls they were cooked in, not sure if they were overcooked or what.  Nice, tender chunks of chicken once again along with a generous amount of vegetables.  The squash was nice and tender too.  Each bowl was only 280 calories, so as I had two, I was still under 600 calories! If you like spicy, this is the one for you! 4.5/5.

Vegetarian and filling: Quinoa & Veggie Enchilada Verde.  This one was also a spicy treat, but only slightly so compared to the curry.  I had two of these as well and that may have been a mistake as they were very filling with the quinoa.  (Most of the meals really are filling enough at 250-340 calories, but a couple of times I was hungry!!!)  There was lots of beans and corn as well with the quinoa, adding to the feeling of being full, but also adding to the taste.  Definitely one of these even at 290 calories is plenty filling.  I had a light sweat at the end.  4.25/5.

They looked burnt, but they were not at all.  Very tasty Luvo Bowls!!!

Okay take on traditional meatloaf: Turkey Meatloaf & Mashed Potatoes with Brussel Sprouts, Butternut Squash & Cranberries.  This one was probably my least favorite of the meals I tried.  It wasn't bad, just not as tasty as the others.  The box does describe it as on the mild side. The meatloaf was very dense and not super tasty.  The brussel sprouts, just 2 again, were okay.  The potatoes and gravy with mushrooms weren't too bad, the squash was good.  3.5/5.  

Just an okay take on an American traditional meal.

An old favorite redone: Vegetarian Roasted Cauliflower Mac & Cheese.  This one came out a bit mushier than I'd like, but that may be the combination of cauliflower mixed in with pasta.  Overall the taste was okay, and as a mixed dish with a vegetarian flare, it does the trick.  However, if you are use to the typical mac & cheese many enjoy, this one will just be okay. At the same time, if you are trying to eat healthy but really want to fill your mac & cheese cravings, then this just might do it, especially at just 340 a bowl.  3.75/5.

Updated takes on American Classics.

In conclusion, though a couple of these meals weren't my favorites, the majority are very good with the Orange Mango Chicken still being my favorite, (I still have one in the freezer right now for another day!!!)  I think Luvo probably has the best meals in the froze n department, especially in terms of being made from healthy ingredients, low calorie, and great taste.  They usually range around $4-5 or so depending upon the store, but well worth it.  Enjoy!

2017 Racing Season: Webster Trail Classic, June 3, Webster, NY

As Spring turned close to Summer and the kids started to get itchy for release from homework and school schedules, I drove over to a little park tucked into the woods of Webster, NY for the Webster Trail Classic 10 Miler.  

In typical laid back trail racing ways, the registration booth was a park shelter and the route was set by a runner wanting to put on a race as is so normal for many of us who truly enjoy the lessons we learn out on a run.  Simple, laid back, and easy. I think I got a car decal as my swag!!!  There were 74 finishers, so I am assuming about the same amount started. Just before we went off to wind through the beginning of the park and onto the trails, I saw my friend Shari who I hadn't raced with since back in October at a race in the dark.  We chatted along with a few of her friends and then gathered to prepare for the start.

We would be running through three parks: Webster Park, Whiting Road Nature Preserve, and Gosnell Big Woods Preserve, (an old growth forest we had special permission to run through for this race), and then back again to the start.  The Race Director did note that there were several trees still down in the first park from the wind storm earlier in the year, and that he had cut several branches off many of them, but still to be careful.  

As we got into the first park, the RD's words were very true, lots of hopping, jumping, and climbing over of downed trees.  Though many branches were cut off, I still managed to spear my left leg on one branch which led to crystalized, salty blood after the race was over, drizzled like icing down my leg.  If only it had been rock candy, it would have been an instant sugar rush!!!

The course was great, it was fun, despite my ongoing case of PF, to run 10 miles in the woods for a couple of hours and feel the enjoyment of a long run that I rarely get to do much anymore.  The turnaround point in the far field in the last forest was very open to the sun and got a bit hot, but I refilled on water and got going again back into the woods.

I was running back and forth with one other runner as we got into the final stretch back home and she started going off course, but I corrected her and then shortly left her behind as we made our way through some deep pine woods.  I was glad I had loosened up on the final quarter mile or so before the race as I then had an idea when I was almost home. While I would have liked to have been a bit faster, I will take my time and with it 55th out of 74 for the day.

Sorry no pics, I didn't take any during the race, and the few I had before and after I deleted. But, it was a low key, very enjoyable race, just the type I like, and I hope to do it again next year.

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