Thursday, March 16, 2023

Make Your Miles More Meaningful

Following the start of the Team Ultra competitions where March's theme is JOY, I decided to re-connect with Team Determination. This group of athletes dedicate their miles to raise funds for the American Cancer Society.

In 2020, I joined American Cancer Society's Team Determination to run the NYC Marathon. While fundraising, I went to a few group runs in Philadelphia with the local team.

While I don't need a bib from ACS for any of the upcoming races, I have decided to once again to fundraise for the American Cancer Society during the race season. My currently scheduled runs include:

  • March 25 - Phillies 5K
  • March 26 - Love Half Marathon (maybe)
  • April 1 - Hot Chocolate 5K
  • April 30 - Broad Street Run
  • May 21 - Sesame Place Classic
  • June 4 - Philly Runfest
  • September 17 - Philadelphia Distance Run
  • November 6 - NYC Marathon (Maybe)
  • November 11 - Rocky Run
  • November 18 - Rothman 8K

In exchange for fundraising, I will have a team to connect with at the events along with organized training runs between scheduled races. 

Hopefully a cure will be found during our lifetime. #MakeYourMilesMeaningful #WhoDoYouRunFor #CancerSucks

Please make a donation

Thursday, January 19, 2023

Do I have what it takes to mentor young runners?

 I've been thinking about it for a while, and last night I took the next step. Here in Philadelphia there is an amazing organization called Students Run Philly which partners adult mentors/coaches with student running groups. If you've participated in any run here in Philadelphia, you've probably seen the blue shirts on younger runners on the course.

While some of the runners look like track stars most look like normal teenagers trying something that they know is difficult. If you know my personal history with running, you know that I probably never even would have been convinced to try going to one of these community events. This is why I'm interested in becoming a mentor.

I still remember back to high school when I would milk a minor injury as long as doctors would extend the medical leave from gym class. Like the time I tripped over my dog's bone, fell down the stairs, cut my knee open (I still have the scar), and ended up in the ER thinking it needed stitches (it luckily didn't) but stayed out of gym for almost three weeks. Missed the mandatory mile and everything. Now, I have chronic pain but still go out and push harder than my doctor recommends. Seriously, after my first Broad Street Run she told me that my body wasn't designed for that type of abuse so I decided to sign up for a half marathon.

The point is, I know what it's like to be that awkward uncoordinated kid. I still am, just older and more stubborn. I am still probably one of the slowest runners out there. But I'm out there. I go at my own pace and I may be later to the finish line celebration but I'm still at the finish line celebration. I may have taken almost seven hours (six hours and fifty-nine minutes) to finish my first marathon, but I finished.

I have my good days and bad days. When my back flairs up I can barely get down the stairs to walk Benny but luckily those bad days are fewer and farther between now. They still happen, but I've learned from physical therapy how to reduce them.

The point of this long-winded narrative is to say I know what it's like to have adults think you can't do it and to think that about myself. I want to be the adult that I wish I had when I was younger. Not the gym teacher yelling at me for walking around the track. Not the doctors telling me to exercise more like it was the easiest thing in the world. I want to be the adult that says "let's walk for a bit. You've got this." and encourages a student to continue to the finish line, even if slow. You need to take a rest? Let's go grab a bottle of water and stretch it out a little. To celebrate the little victories. Because those little victories grow into larger victories. 

It's also why many people are chasing the PR not the BQ. I know I'll never qualify for Boston. I run a twelve minute mile on a good day but average closer to fifteen minutes on longer distances. But this year I knocked two minutes off my Rothman 8K. And next year, many I can knock another two minutes off. Those Personal Records are the ones to celebrate. Don't compare yourself to anyone but your former self. That's what I hope to help with if my schedule allows me to join the Students as a mentor.

Thursday, June 9, 2022

Healthy Meal Plan

Over the years I have tried and canceled many meal plan services. Sometimes the ingredients would arrive but because of my schedule I didn't end up cooking it until a few days later when some fresh ingredients were no longer... fresh. And sometimes they would send me produce that was already turning. For the price of those meals, I never felt the convince was worth the cost.

Last week, I signed up for a free trial of eMeals and so far I really like it. If I end up keeping it, which I highly believe I will, it is $9.99 per month or $60 for the year ($5/month). They also have add-ons for additional fees if you want to add a breakfast and/or lunch menu to create a full meal plan.

Citrus Cod with
Mashed Cauliflower
So what's the difference between eMeals and those other programs? eMeals doesn't send you the ingredients. Instead, you look at the weekly menu and mark which meals you want to cook. It generates the shopping list for you and bookmarks the recipes for easy access. You then can either go to the grocery store yourself or eMeals can send your shopping list directly to tons of popular grocery delivery sites like Instacart, Amazon, and others. They have multiple menus to select but you can switch between them for more flexibility.

Screenshot of app
The first meal I tried was Citrus Cod with Mashed Cauliflower. This was a 30-minute meal and so the shopping list said "frozen mashed cauliflower" which was fine for me and it was super easy to prepare the cod. The longest part of prep was pre-heating the oven. Seriously, the fish was ready before the oven was at the correct temperature. 

With grocery prices continue to rise, this also will let you select meals based on weekly grocery sales as well to help you eat well while saving money.

On the website you can see all the menu options and there's an option to download PDFs but I think the app is where it's at. You have your shopping list right there and you can check things off as you go. You can also add additional items to the shopping list so everything is in one place. 

This post is not sponsored by eMeals but they do have a referral program. If you sign-up for eMeals from my link, we will both get $10 towards our meal plans.

Wednesday, April 27, 2022

Running Through My Childhood

Last week I started a new job. While I will be remaining in Philadelphia and working remotely, I went into their corporate office on Long Island for onboarding. If you didn't know, I grew up on Long Island and was there from the very beginning until I left for college.

I arrived on Sunday to start at 8am on Monday morning. Being that it was a beautiful Sunday afternoon when I arrived, I decided to tour my old memories. I started at the old house which I still refer to as "my house" even though I haven't lived there since my mom sold it in 2002. Then I drove past schools, dinners, the library, and other places I frequented as a child. I was surprised at the things that changed but also how many stayed the same.

Mini-golf was closed
for the season.
Before heading back to the hotel, I decided to take one more trip down memory lane and I went to Eisenhower Park, parking near the mini-golf course. It's still closed for the season but the park itself was obviously open. I changed into my running gear in a bathroom and then made sure my car was locked with everything of value hidden in the trunk. 

As a kid, I was always the one making excuses NOT to run so while this park has amazing paths I never used them. Now I've changed that. I ran 5K around the park and zig-zagged through different paths. I made many stops during my run to just take in the memories that came flooding back. I remembered the field where we would launch model rockets and the pond where we drove our remote-controlled boats. 

Outside Safety Town.
One memory that stuck out the most was Safety Town. This was something that I was honestly shocked still exists. Safety Town was a miniature town where school groups, scouts, and more could go to learn about... safety. During the program, students start in a classroom learning about how to cross the street without their parents (no more holding hands), signal while riding a bike, and more. Then they go out to the town and replicate conditions. Some drove go-carts, some walked, and some road bikes. Then they swapped. This allowed the kids to get practical experience using the skills they just discussed. As I said, I was shocked, nostalgic, and a little happy to see Safety Town still exists for the next generation. It may seem old fashion but these skills are still important and we've all seen how many people jay-walk not paying any attention as pedestrians. 

Sunday, April 10, 2022

Upgraded to Paid Strava Account

I recently did the two-month trial of Strava's premium features and ended up paying to keep them. Not because I want/need the detailed analysis of my running but because of the safety features.

There have been a few incidents in my area recently involving runners and since I tend to run alone it has made me very nervous. I want my emergency contact to know when I'm out and have access to my real-time GPS location. While they made Beacon free for all, you need to manually go into the app every time and activate it to send the link. With Strava's premium account, anytime I start a GPS based workout from my watch, a text message is sent with a link to track live. So for under $6 per month (billed as $59.99+tax for a year) I have that peace of mind as I go out running, walking, biking, etc.

Is it really worth it? Probably not since I can manually start it via the app but for safety, but I like the automation. My watch is also set to auto-detect running. So if I don't hit the start button and just start moving at a running speed for over three minutes it'll also alert my emergency contact with the GPS link and all. So for my peace of mind, I paid for the year with my Google Play credits that I earned  from the Google Opinion Rewards app so it didn't actually cost me anything for the year. Maybe by next year they'll lower the cost or make Beacon's automatic option an à la carte cheaper feature.

Thursday, March 31, 2022

March Movement Madness

Benny loves a pup cup.
This has been a crazy month. In my attempt to win my way back onto #TeamUltra, I participated in the #ULTRAMarathonGiveaway for #MarchMadness by @michelobULTRA. The challenge was to go at least one mile per day for the month of March. They called it #MarchMovementMadness.

Well, I realized a lot this month about myself. First, Benny and I do actually take one mile walks most days and I just don't track it. In fact, when we go to C&C for a treat, it's over a mile each way. Two, leaving work at lunch to take a walk is a great stress reliever. And three, my running speeds have actually improved from all the walking. 

Garmin 400,000 Step Challenge
The good timing of a Garmin challenge also came during March and I participated in a 400,000 step challenge. I hit the goal with two hours to spare before the challenge closes. That's right, I made it 400,000 steps in one month. 

So even though March is over, I plan to continue this daily getting out for at least a mindful mile. I just won't be tracking it all on Strava but my Garmin will still be tracking my steps and total mileage. 

I hope that I get the chance to run the #TCSNYCMarathon for a second time.

Thursday, March 17, 2022

Treadmills: A Love/Hate/Hate Relationship

Timer selfie on the treadmill.
I said it. I hate treadmills and try to avoid them at all costs. Last week, I was at a hotel during a snow storm. The snow itself didn't prevent me from wanting to run outside (I did pack my thermal running gear) but not being familiar with the area did give me pause. So I decided to try the treadmill in the hotel's fitness center.

I currently have access to the Peleton app and have actually been enjoying their outdoor runs. If you haven't tried them, the outdoor runs are audio-only workouts where they have a themed playlist of songs and an instructor guiding you through intervals while providing tips and motivation. This time, I tried one of the actual treadmill workouts because even though the hotel treadmill was obviously not a Peleton treadmill, the workouts are designed to work with any generic equipment. I put my phone on the little platform and realized immediately why I always hate treadmills. Looking down at the screen hurt my neck immediately and made me a little dizzy within the first few minutes. 

How I reconnected the TV.

That's when I realized that there was no one else in the fitness center and I was there for a technology meeting. Being the resourceful technology specialist that I am, I'm always prepared... to break things. Just kidding, but I did start messing around with the hotel's television on the wall. I disconnected the HDMI cable from their cable box and plugged in my computer. Presto. Now my computer's display was showing on the television which was at the perfect location and height for the treadmill.

The first day when I arrived at the hotel, I tried one of the walk workouts. It was actually kind of interesting to follow along because it wasn't just walking. They had you turn the treadmill slower and then walk sideways with a hop step at one point. The next morning I went back down to run before my meetings started. I again was alone so I disconnected the television again to use it for myself.

Now for the interesting part. As you've seen in previous posts, I now have a Garmin watch. One of the options on the fitness tracking app is treadmill. I assume this is because running on a treadmill won't track with a GPS since your location is not changing. I would think it's tracking the heartrate and steps. However, if it is tracking the steps I need to figure out how to calibrate it correctly. When I finished the one-hour running workout, my Garmin said that I ran almost six miles in an hour. If you know me, you would know that this is impossible. Maybe on a good day I can get to five miles in an hour, but there has never been a run longer than one mile where I averaged under twelve minutes. So to see a ten-minute average is impossible. More so when you see my "fastest" mile was a 7:41 split. I look forward to the day when all my hard training gets me close to a ten-minute mile, but I know I'm not there yet.

So what's the love/hate/hate relationship mentioned in this post's title? Well, I still hate treadmills but perhaps having something ahead of me at eye level reduces that dizziness that I normally feel because I wasn't just staring at a blank spot on the wall. I still hate running without going anywhere because I like looking around as I run and taking in the scenery along with the smells of nature as I move. However, I do love that it thinks I went faster because seeing those numbers definitely motivated me to keep trying to reach those speeds legitimetly.