Sunday, December 13, 2015

Reindeer Romp

After many months of training and completing Daniels' plan, it was time to see how much the hard work had paid off.  I cut back my mileage a little the past two weeks, and focused on shorter faster intervals to sharpen things up.  My original plan was to run a Turkey Trot 5k, but thankfully I was able to get some time off work and traveled north to PA to be with my family for Thanksgiving.  Driving up Thanksgiving Day, I just couldn't fit a 5k into the schedule, so I picked a race two weeks later to focus on.  Yesterday, I ran the Reindeer Romp 5k at Meredith College just down Hillsborough St from my apartment.

My girlfriend, dog Porter, and I arrived around 8:30 AM for packet pickup and the place was already packed.  It was clear this was going to be a huge race, but the majority being non-competitive (paying a lower entry fee and not being timed) or members of Girls on the Run who had trained for this event.  The final results list 231 participants who ran the competitive race, but the event staff announced during the awards that including the non-competitive, there were more than 2,500 people in the race.

The weather has been very warm for December this week, and at 10 AM for the race start it was already nearly 70 degrees and sunny.  I made my way through the hoards of people to the front of the starting line.  I looked around to see if anyone else was trying to get to the front and started to think that despite the large crowd, this race might be pretty similar to the last one I ran.  One guy stepped up and was asking my about my NC singlet and what time I was hoping to run, saying he would probably come in around 19 minutes.  I'm not sure why he was so modest because he ran a great race in 17:31.

The gun went off and I took off.  In October I was too slow for the first mile, and I didn't want that to happen again.  I came through the first mile in 5:35.  I still can't quite get the first mile down, running this one just a little faster than I had planned.  Still, it was much better than around 6 like I did in my last race, and at this point in the race I felt pretty good about bettering my finish time.  The guy I was talking to at the start had trailed just behind me for close to 1.25 miles until he passed me.  I tried to stay right on him but he slowly added some distance throughout the rest of the race.

Over the next mile, there was a segment on the Greenway with a lot of trees and I lost my GPS signal.  I don't know what my 2 mile split was, but I think I came through somewhere near 11:35 so probably right at 6 for mile 2.  After mile 2 we got back onto the same part of the course from the first mile but in reverse.  Coming out of the woods, I was met with a mob of hundreds of people shuffling at probably 15 minutes/mile.  The lady on a motorized bike leading the way was beeping her horn like crazy but it was not working well.  I was only the very left of a wide road and had no where to go.  I did my best to go around people but at one point I nearly came to a complete stop.  I was pissed.  I finished really well and was happy with my time, otherwise I would've made a bigger deal of this to the race director.  Instead, I just likely will not do this race again.

I held pace into mile 3 until about a half mile to go I picked it up with everything I had, thinking I had an outside shot at 17:59.  There was a downhill finish onto the track for the homestretch into the finish.  I pushed all the way through and finished in 18:05, 17 seconds faster than my last 5k and 12 seconds off my fastest time in high school.  The crowd cost me a few seconds, but even without them I don't think I would've cracked 18:00.  I finished 2nd overall, 34 seconds behind first and more than a minute ahead of third place.

Reindeer Romp
2nd Place / 231
Official Results

I could stretch it out a few more weeks and take another shot at 17:59 but I think I have probably taken it as far as I can for now.  Time to start a new training plan and add some miles.  Now for some thoughts on how this training went:

  • I really liked Daniels' Plan.  Phase III was tough, there were times I thought I was starting to burn out, but I never went overboard on any single workout, and didn't increase my mileage during phase III.
  • Mileage.  I really couldn't have increased it much more in training, but if I want to run faster I need more miles.  I have more than enough speed to be running a lot faster than I am right now, and if I want to run fast for longer races, again, I need more miles.
  • Having said that, could I really have expected to this to go much better?  This year is the first that I have raced since 2011, and I'm already very close to the fastest I've ever ran.  I ran 17:53 one time in high school and ran the same exact time in a 5k in 2011 when I was running a lot in undergrad.  I had a lot more speed in high school, but my endurance is leaps and bounds stronger now.  I definitely don't expect to keep cutting off 20 seconds every time I run a 5k, the improvements will slow.  But I think the fact that I improved this much already, says I have a lot more improvement to come.  A PR is coming in 2016.

Where to go from here?  It's a little frustrating to be so close to a PR, but I have a lot of time for that.  My plan now is to train for a Spring half marathon.  My October race went really well, so I'd like to run more races in training, maybe a couple races from 8k - 10M.  I'll pick a training plan in the next week or so, likely Daniel's half plan, and start to work my miles up.  I'd like to be averaging around 50 in training for a half, but that will require me to run in the morning on my work days, something I am very very bad at for now, but that will change.


Sunday, November 1, 2015

Run for You

Yesterday I ran the first annual Run for You in Wake Forest.  I just finished up Phase III of Daniels' 5k-10k plan and have about 4 weeks until my goal race, so this was mostly a tune up and to see where my fitness is.

My girlfriend, her younger brother, our dog Porter, and I arrived shortly after 7 AM for packet pickup at Run N Tri Outfitters.  The sun wasn't up yet and it was around 40 degrees.  I was getting a little worried that I would be colder than expected because I didn't even bother to bring gloves or a hat, just my singlet and shorts.  Oh well.  The sun came up and I warmed up a lot right up until the start.  With the sun and a few more degrees, the weather ended up being pretty comfortable for me.

Being the first year of the race, I wasn't sure if the turnout would be too strong, but I was pleasantly surprised as everyone gathered at the start.  The results list 253 participants.  The start was very narrow and several kids were standing in front of me as we lined up.  I looked around and didn't really notice anyone stepping up to the front and thought I might not have anyone to run with.  Earlier I had seen a couple kids in high school cross country shirts and thought they might pop up at some point but they never did.

The gun went off and after a few seconds waiting for the kids to get going I quickly went around them.  After about 400 meters one runner settled in next to me, but he fell back a little over the next 400 and was no where to be seen the rest of the race.  In my last 5k in May, I started off way too fast with the first mile in 5:33.  With colder weather, no one in front of me, and trying to be a little conservative, of course I went too slow this time, crossing the first mile just under 6.  I was not happy.  My legs just would not go any faster that first mile.  I felt pretty strong, however, and there were some steady hills that I knew I could take advantage of on the way back.

More hills came on the second mile as I tried to hold pace.  The course went through some neighborhoods and there was one street I had to cross where on-coming traffic did not have a stop sign.  The volunteers at this location couldn't have been paying less attention but thankfully the car slammed on it's breaks when it saw the biker leading the way in front me.  There was an aid station at the turn around but I passed  as I was feeling pretty good.  My second mile came in just over 6.  I needed to at least beat my time from May, so I knew I was going to have to take advantage of these downhills on the way back.

I felt really strong that last mile.  I don't think I gained a ton of speed from May, but my strength definitely improved.  I think my fitness right now is probably better suited for a longer race.  I pushed all the way to the line and finished in 18:22, beating my Got Grit time by 20 seconds.  Despite having more than 250 runners, this was not a competitive race.  I ran solo for about the last 2.5 miles and won by more than 90 seconds.  It was essentially a solo time trial, but I'll take it!  With a month to go in my 5k training, I am very happy with this time.  Even though it was not the most competitive race, winning feels really good and is a nice confident boost.

With under a month to Thanksgiving, I will continue with Phase IV of Daniels' plan.  I'm still not sure which race I will be running or if I can even get off work.  If I'm able to get that day off, I will likely be heading up to Pennsylvania to spend the holiday with family.  If that's the case, my best bet may be to stop somewhere on the way up north and run a 5k Thanksgiving morning.  I have looked around and there are a couple options fairly close to our route.

Run for You
1st Place / 253
Official Results

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Training Update

I am now several weeks into Phase III of Daniels' plan, and my fitness has improved a lot.  I've read a a lot of online posts about people struggling in Phase III, feeling the workouts may be a bit much.  I have been very conscious of this, keeping my weekly mileage the same and the workouts reasonable.

My past 7 weeks of workouts.

  • 9.7.15 - 9.13.15
    • Q1 - 5x800m w/ 2 min rest @ avg. 2:57
    • Q2 - 4x1mi w/ 1 min rest @ avg. 6:18
  • 9.14.15 - 9.20.15
    • Q1 - 5x800m w/ 2 min rest @ avg. 2:52
    • Q2 - 3mi tempo @ avg. 6:23
  • 9.21.15 - 9.27.15
    • Q1 - 5x800m w/ 2 min rest @ avg. 2:53
    • Q2 - 4x1mi w/ 1 min rest @ avg. 6:10
  • 9.28.15 - 10.4.15
    • Q1 - 4x1000m w/ 3 min rest @ avg. 3:37
    • Q2 - 3 mi tempo @ avg. 6:12
  • 10.5.15 - 10.11.15
    • Q1 - 4x1000m w/ 3 min rest @ avg . 3:35
    • Q2 - 4x1mi w/ 1 min rest @ avg. 6:17
      • This workout was tough.  From the first step I felt sluggish.  While I completed the Q1 this week, I think I pushed a little too hard and felt it later in the week.
  • 10.12.15 - 10.18.15
    • Q1 - 4x1000m w / 3 min rest @ avg. 3:37
      • It doesn't look like much of a difference but slowing up ever so slightly from last week made a big difference.  I kept my form through all the reps and tried hard to run my intervals evenly this week.  This one felt great.
    • Q2 - 3 mi tempo @ avg. 6:11
  • 10.19.15 - Current
    • Q1 - 5x800m w/ 2 min rest @ avg 2:49
Finally, I have reached the last week of Phase III.  It has been a grind.  This week I went back to the 800s as I wanted to gauge where I was compared to the beginning of September.  I hadn't run Monday or Tuesday this week, as I worked back to back 12 hour shifts and just couldn't get out the door in the morning.  Naturally I was a little sluggish for this workout but once I warmed up it felt great.  I ran the last rep a little fast, 2:46, but it felt so good to finish off a workout that strong.  Looking back, I ran these reps at an average of 8 seconds faster than I did when I started Phase III.

I'll be running another 5k next weekend in Wake Forest.  Right now, I am definitely not at full strength because of the grind of this phase of workouts.  I'll run a light tempo session early in the week, and take it easy up until the race on Saturday.  Even with not being fully rested, I still expect to take a chunk of time off my 5k from May.

Looking back at that race, my mile splits were 5:33, 6:11, and 6:19.  Awful.  I think if you drop me right now at the start of the second mile of that race, I could go at least 6:05, 6:05, ideally 6:00, 6:00.  My workouts indicate I could be close to 18:00.  I'm not sure what goal to have for this race, but I'm thinking 18:30.  If I can cut off 10+ seconds from May, just coming off Phase III, I'd be happy with that.  Then, with another month of Phase IV and easing up a bit, even faster for a Turkey Trot as my goal race.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

I've Made a Huge Mistake

After a few years hiatus during grad school, I decided to subscribe to Runner's World again.  I don't usually take much away from it for my running, but I enjoy reading it.  Yesterday I got my first issue in the mail, and just in time for some great tips to help me start running.

Now I remember why I always preferred Running Times.  Thanks again, Jogger's World.

Friday, August 21, 2015

LunarGlide 6 Revisited + Training Update

I bought the LunarGlide 6 back in March and was a little skeptical at the time.  Now, about 600 miles in, I will say they are the best running shoes I have owned.  The durability and weight of them made a great everyday trainer.  I wasn't sure how many miles I would get out of them and saw some mixed opinions online.  Over the past few weeks, however, I have noticed the rate of wear and tear is starting to increase.  Even this week, they were starting to feel a little worn to me.  I probably waited a little long but it's time for new shoes.

I think we have some great local running stores here in Raleigh and like to make all my running shoes and gear purchases with them rather than a large chain or online.  Given how much I love these shoes, of course I want the recently released LunarGlide 7.  The problem has been finding them.  None of the local shops have them.  I'm sure it's tough for the local guys to get these new releases from big companies, so I shouldn't have been surprised.  Normally I would wait until they have them, but given the little life remaining in my 6's, I can't.  I ordered them online today, hoping that if I buy a second pair of these shoes after a few hundred miles, I can buy them locally.

As far as my training goes, I'm training toward a Thanksgiving Day 5k, hoping to lower my time from Got Grit.  I'm well into Phase II of Daniels' 5k to 10k in the Third Edition.  I had more than a few bumps in the road training for my last 5k and have been much more consistent this time around.  I'm currently at 35 miles per week and have been hitting some great workouts.  Today I ran a 3 mile tempo in the middle of a 7 mile run hitting 6:15, 6:21, and 6:16.  It felt very smooth and gave me a lot of confidence.  I've been very focused on hitting the full workout, putting in the weekly miles, and being consistent.  Coming up on Phase III of the program when the workouts really ramp up, I think I may not go higher than 35 miles per week in this training cycle to avoid nearly burning myself out like I did in the spring.

Beyond Thanksgiving, given how this race and training go, I'm eyeing up the Tar Heel 10 Miler in April.  I think the timing will work out for me, giving me a chance to up my mileage a bit more in the winter and transition into a training plan for a 10 mile race.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Raleigh Beer Garden

This past week, another bar opened in Raleigh.  In my now year plus in Raleigh, many new bars, breweries, and bottle shops have opened.  Craft beer is exploding here.  Many of these new beer spots offer nothing new, and I'll be interested to see which ones will last.  On Tuesday, however, Raleigh Beer Garden opened and now offers something that no other bar in Raleigh can match.  In fact, no one in the world can match it, 366 beers on tap.

Obviously, I had to attend on opening day.  My girlfriend and I arrived around 6:30 PM and the place was packed.  The servers outside told us the multiple bars were self-seating but we would need to put our name in for a table.  The waiter wrote our names down on a piece of paper and told us it would be about 45 minutes.  As we headed in to try and I get a drink at the bar, I was little worried we would never get a table.  I know that it's opening night, but for a restaurant as hyped as this with such a large social media presence, an up to the minute draft list on Taphunter, etc. would have a better system of seating people.

The restaurant has 3 different bars, one serving liquor, one serving North Carolina draft beer, and one serving beer from everywhere else.  There was a small bar on the rooftop as well that wasn't online this night so I'm not sure what they'll have up there.  The bars were drastically understaffed.  It's opening night and there were a ton of people, but it took a very long time to get a drink.  By the time we walked around a little, deciphered the insane draft list, and got two drinks, the 45 minutes was up and we checked back with the front to get our table.

Soon after entering, I learned that the world record for beers on tap had not yet been broken.  Many of the taps were not yet hooked up, including the first four I tried to order.  While it might take you 30 minutes to work your way through the draft list, in my opinion it really wasn't that amazing.  Many of the beers are very common that are available elsewhere in Raleigh, just not all in one place.  One thing I was glad to see is that they had some options from some North Carolina breweries that I never see on draft in this area, including Ass Clown and Frog Level.  Unfortunately, none of these were actually on draft yet.  I'll be anxious to see how much turnover they have here, or will it pretty much be the same beers all the time.

Raleigh Beer Garden has massive potential, but still a lot to work on.  With 366 beers on tap less than a mile from my apartment, I'm sure I'll be back often regardless.  It will be interesting to see how this works out having so much beer on draft.  Will beers stay fresh?  I've heard some concerns about this from some local breweries on podcasts and online and I don't think anyone really knows yet how this place will do.  Nevertheless, it is another craft beer bar that I am very glad to have in Raleigh.

614 Glenwood Ave.
Raleigh, NC 27603

Catching Up

I have neglected this blog for a long time.  It hasn't been intentional, I just haven't taken the time to sit down and write up a post.  Anyway, I'll try my best to catch up on a few things.

Full Moon Cafe & Brewery

On our trip to Corolla Light to meet my family, my girlfriend and I stopped at Full Moon Cafe & Brewery in Manteo.  Any new brewery is exciting for me but unfortunately this place was a bit of a disappointment.  The bar and cafe were separate but shared a large patio space.  The one bartender inside a small bar was clearly not as interested in our business and texting, but nonetheless after a small struggle, we were able to order a flight.

The branding of this place was a little odd as well.  There were several logos/posters of "Full Moon Brewery," others as "Lost Colony Brewery" and a few of the beer names started with "Lost Colony" by Full Moon Brewery.  I couldn't really figure out what was going on with the names or branding.  We sampled the full lineup with my favorite being the Porter and the Pale Ale.  It was fun to see a new place, but I can't say that I'd stop here again.

Full Moon Cafe and Brewery
208 Queen Elizabeth St.
Manteo, NC 27954

Outer Banks Brewing Station

Our next stop was in Kill Devil Hills in the large and impressive Outer Banks Brewing Station.  This place was more than a brewery, much more of a family restaurant setting.  The parking lot was packed so I worried a little about getting a seat.  Even with a line of people waiting outside for a table, we walked right in and grabbed two seats at the bar.

The beer was average.  Out of the flight, my favorite was the hefeweizen.  I can't say that has ever happened before as it's not usually one of my favorite styles, but I enjoyed theirs.  Besides the beer, it's easy to see why this place was so packed.  The food was great, the atmosphere was great, and it catered to people of all ages.  There were families seated throughout the restaurant, older couples pounding Miller Lite, and couples like my girlfriend and I seated at the bar.  I would definitely recommend this place.  In addition to the awesome menu, I would describe many of the beers as gateway beers that many non-craft beer drinkers would enjoy.

Outer Banks Brewing Station
600 South Croatan Hwy
Kill Devils Hills, NC 27948

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Got Grit 5k

After nearly 4 years, it was finally time to run a race again.  My girlfriend joined me in Hillsborough, NC this past weekend for the Got Grit 5k.  We were one of the first people to arrive at a seemingly abandoned Orange High School but thankfully the place quickly filled up, with just under 300 runners competing in the race.

The course was an out and back so I knew it couldn't be too bad but no one was able to actually tell me where the race went, only where the starting line was.  This is somehow the 6th annual.  I headed out for my warm-up to get an idea.  I do very little morning running (still working on that part) so I felt very sluggish in my warm-up.  I shuffled through 2.5 miles trying to get my body going, but was never really worried because I knew it would change once the gun went off.  My goal for the race was under 18:59 or as close to 6:00/mile as I could get.

The race started and a small group sprinted out in front with me and a few others shortly behind.  After about 400 meters there was just 4 runners ahead of me and I made no attempt to catch up as they were flying.  It's been a very long time since I raced, so pacing was my biggest concern.  I though an ideal first mile for me would be 5:50 or a little under.  Even staying back from the lead group, I knew I was going a little too quick and kept trying to back off.  I didn't let up too much though as I clocked the first mile in 5:33.  Ha.  It's been quite a while since I've run a mile that fast.  Despite that being much faster than a 5k pace I'm capable of right now, it felt so effortless.  It was great.  With a good bit of room to work with under my goal time, I basically just tried to hang on the rest of the way.

Around the turn around, I passed 1 runner from the group ahead of me.  I could tell he was slowing big time after the first mile and he really fell off after I passed him.  My pace slowed quite a bit the last two miles.  I had no answer for some of the hills and was a little disappointed that I wasn't able to hold on a little longer.  The race had a pretty great turnout, but I stayed in 4th the remainder of the time and finished in 18:42, running miles 2 & 3 in 6:1x with a finish on the track.

My splits were definitely not what I had planned, but overall I can't complain with my finish time.  That's not much slower than a typical 5k in high school for me, and less than a minute slower than my PR.  I've got a long way to go, but I've also got a great start to build on.

Got Grit 5k
4th/295, 1st Place 20-24
Official Results

Friday, May 15, 2015

Charlotte Breweries

On the first weekend of May, my girlfriend and I made a trip to Charlotte for her birthday.  It was my first time ever in the city and it was great to check out some different places.  Of course, with me being there, we did manage to stop at two breweries that were right next to each other (I swear the trip was for her).

A 15 minute drive from our hotel in the EpiCentre took us to Sugar Creek Brewing Company.  The atmosphere and bar for this place were very nice.  I would later find out this is the previous location of The Olde Mecklenburg Brewery, so I guess they weren't starting from scratch?

They had a small menu of sandwiches and salads, which was all we were looking for.  The beers I sampled were Framboise, McColl's Wit, Father Franklin's Patersbier, and the Belgian Dubbel.  They were pretty average across the board for me, but they're pretty easy drinkers and I can definitely see the appeal to someone not quite as into heavier or hoppier beer styles.  The Patersbier was interesting, I've never had the style before.  I actually had the Pale Ale the day before in a bar shortly after we arrived in Charlotte, and was my favorite that I had from Sugar Creek

My one complaint about Sugar Creek would be the service.  We sat at the bar and were pretty much ignored for the majority of our time there and given little to no info on the beer.  It was not busy.  It was actually pretty dead with a few other people at the bar and one full table in the taproom.  The night before when I had the Pale Ale, the brewery toasted my check-in on Untappd (and later toasted all my other check-ins from the brewery) very shortly afterwards.  I guess I was expecting to meet an enthusiastic bartender or two if their owner or whoever takes the time to toast so many people on Untappd.

215 Southside Dr
Charlotte, NC 28217

Our next stop was the previously mentioned Olde Mecklenburg Brewery.  They do not distribute quite yet to Raleigh, but I had their beer once before at Beericana this past September.  This facility was incredible.  An awesome tap room, a huge beer garden with more bars outside, and an insane brewery that we were able to tour.  This is the kind of brewery you stay at all day and never think of hopping to another bar.  There was even a little kid's birthday going.  To the parents who celebrated their ten-year-old's birthday at a brewery, who was that party really for?

Our tour was simply awesome.  We were taken through the entire process, given an extensive history of the brewery, learned all about the owner, and where their inspiration comes from.  If you are ever in the area, I would highly recommend touring Olde Mecklenburg.  It was an all-around great time.  I had their flagship Copper Ale the night before and rated it as average.  They mentioned several times throughout the tour they have no interest in brewing American styles like west coast IPAs or imperial stouts, and they certainly stay true to their style.  At one point in the tour, we were given full pours of the Copper straight from the source.

I must've been caught up in everything because damn that beer was good.  It tasted infinitely better than the Copper Ale I had earlier.  Our tour guide was very upfront with the fact that this place was started with some serious capital from the owner.  As I mentioned earlier, there were previously located where Sugar Creek is now, a closet compared to this compound.  As for the beer, German styles are not nearly as enjoyable for me as some bigger American styles, but everything I had here was solid.  Before the tour I had the Fat Boy Baltic Porter and elsewhere in Charlotte had the Hornet's Nest hefeweizen.

The Olde Mecklenburg Brewery
4150 Yancey Rd.
Charlotte, NC 28217

Unfortunately, we were not able to make it to NoDa Brewing Company, or The Unknown Brewing Company (who seem to be everywhere I look in Raleigh), but that gives us all the more reason to return to Charlotte!

Monday, May 11, 2015

Beer of the Month - April 2015

My favorite beer from April did not come easily.  I had just worked 9 hours on a Saturday.  It was rainy and cold.  And along with a thousand drunk morons, we were packed like sardines on Fayetteville St in downtown Raleigh.  Brewgaloo 2015.

Ass Clown Brewing Company, out of Cornelius, had by far the longest line.  I've heard of Ass Clown many times, but have never tried them nor seen them on tap here in Raleigh.  Having arrived to the festival later than most because of work, and time not being on my side, at first my girlfriend and I passed on them in favor of some shorter lines.  After making our rounds for an hour or so, we decided we had to try it, despite the line somehow getting longer during this time.

To make our wait more bearable, I would run off and grab us more samples from some of the shorter lines and bring them back while my girlfriend saved our spot.  Veteran move.  We ended up getting three samples from Ass Clown between the two of us and I will say it was 100% worth the wait.  My favorite being the Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Stout.  Awesome peanut butter aroma and flavor.  The chocolate taste was much light, but it worked for me.  I may be in the minority on this, but I liked it more than Sweet Baby Jesus.

Some other favorites from Brewgaloo:
-Ass Clown Orange IPA
-Pisgah Brewing Company GreyBeard IPA
-Fullsteam Coffee Is For Closers

Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Stout (from Untappd)
Ass Clown Brewing Company
7.1% ABV, ?? IBU
Rate: 4.5/5

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Training Update

Entering 2015, the biggest thing I needed to work on to get back to racing was my workouts.  I have made good on my goal to become more consistent with my workouts, especially over the past few weeks.  At first when I got back on the track, I'll admit, it wasn't pretty.  Some of the intervals were not quite up to the standard I had for myself.  At some point over the last month or so, however, things have started to click.  Those early workouts are finally starting to pay off.

I have been following Daniels' 5k to 15k plan somewhat closely, and last week's workout called for good old Coach Smith's bread and butter workout.  Coach Smith was my high school running coach.  He has been the coach at my high school since the '70s, and holds countless district championships and a Pennsylvania Cross Country State Championship under his belt as well.  We knew the workout was coming when Coach had us meet him on the track.  We feared for our safety when we saw the huge racing clock lying near the 50 yard line.  Quarter.  Mile.  Repeats.

I cannot possibly count how many times I ran a single lap around that track, rested for a short time, and did it again at Coach Smith's order.  I'll admit, in high school, I hated them.  It was my least favorite day of cross country practice.  But for some strange reason, since about the time I ran my last lap around the track for Coach Smith, I love this workout.  I haven't done it since probably last spring, far too long I know, but I was excited to get back at it.  After some sub-par performances with my workouts on the Paul H. Derr Track in 2015, it felt great to complete a 12x400m workout averaging about 83 seconds a piece.

This workout gave me a ton of confidence.  It's not quite as fast as I did it in high school, but I felt really good about my interval times.  That's not an easy workout to complete.  And I had more in the tank when I finished.  Since last week, I've nailed two more workouts.  Today I ran 2x2 miles at tempo pace with 2 minutes rest in between.  I averaged these miles under 6:20, running each one faster and feeling stronger each time.

It's time to race.  I have submitted my registration and will be running my first 5k since 2011 on May 30.  Can't wait.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Beer of the Month - March 2015

Raleigh will retain the crown this month as my favorite beer in March goes to The King from Trophy Brewing Company.  I go to Trophy pretty frequently as it is one of my favorite places in Raleigh.  I love the ever-changing tap list because of the small batches they brew.  One of the downsides of a tap list that changes so frequently, if there can be such a thing, is that this is only the second appearance of The King since I moved here in June.  I missed out the first time, but due to a ringing endorsement from my girlfriend, I had to try it this time.

The King is a Belgian Dubbel that is "built to wrap the flavors of peanut butter with banana esters and sit on a bready dubbel base."  The peanut butter flavor is awesome and the banana, while not as strong, compliments it well.  This beer works.  My favorite offering from Trophy.

The King
Belgian Dubbel
6.3% ABV, ?? IBU
Rate: 4.5/5

Sunday, March 22, 2015

New Shoes

This past week I did one of my favorite things that doesn't directly involve running.  Only indirectly.  I bought new running shoes.  The past several thousands miles on my feet have been run in different versions of Asics Gel-Kayanos.  The Kayanos have served me well.  I've never had pain running in them.  However, they have grown to be a little bulky and heavy for my liking, and wanted to get something a little lighter this time. After some research on various running websites and forums, I headed to Raleigh Running Outfitters to try some on.

I've heard some great things about Raleigh Running Outfitters from other runners in the area.  They make frequent appearances at Big Boss Run Club, offering to buy you a beer if you have their gear on.  Sadly, I have yet to take them up on that offer as this was my first visit.  Despite likely not having a selection on quite the level of a national sporting goods chain, I always prefer the local running stores.  In addition to supporting local businesses, chances are you'll find the people working at these stores really know what they are talking about, as they are dedicated runners themselves.

I went with the Nike LunarGlide 6.  At 9.6 ounces, they come in more than 1.5 ounces lighter than the Asics Gel-Kayano 20.  Exactly what I was looking for.  I felt even more confident about my purchase when I learned about Raleigh Running's return policy.  A full refund within 14 days or a store credit within 30 days.  I'm getting close to the 14 day limit, and have done 2 long runs and a couple workouts.  The shoes feel great so far.  It never bothered me with the Kayanos, but the larger toe box with the LunarGlides is noticeable as soon as you put them on your feet. I like the lighter feel with these shoes a lot as well.  So far so good, but I will test them as much as I can before the 30 days to make sure these are the right shoes for me.

Raleigh Running Outfitters
7449 Six Forks Road
Raleigh, NC 27615

Friday, March 6, 2015

Beer of the Month - February 2015

February was a very good month for beer, both in quality and quantity.  And with so many people in North Carolina seemingly trapped in their homes by a light dusting of snow, why not?  A German hazelnut cask from Aviator (marked on the draft list as "Not Nutella"), the Japanese Green Tea IPA from Stone, and Goose Island BCBS 2014 were a few of my favorites this month.  My beer of the month for February, however, is staying right here in Raleigh with the Tandem Double IPA 2.0 from Crank Arm.

The short Untappd blurb describes this beer as "Jade, Amarillo and Mosaic hops in a perfectly balanced harmony between hop bitterness and smooth drinkability."  I must agree.  Without sounding too much like the old Miller Lite ads, I will say that this beer was exceptional drinkable for a DIPA.  Crank Arm has been putting out some great brews lately, and have become a staple in my beer diet.

Tandem Double IPA 2.0
Crank Arm Brewing
Imperial / Double IPA
8.7% ABV, 92 IBU
Rate: 4.5/5

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

I was told it would be warm here.

In my last post I talked about how tough I was for being able to run in cold because I'm from PA.  Is 39 degrees better than the 29 and freezing rain in Erie right now?  Yes.  Still, I am waiting for this North Carolina weather I keep hearing about.  Tomorrow's forecast is 77, only to cut in half again by Friday.  It was around 35 with some wind when went out for my run earlier.  Thirty-five is the kind of temperature that makes me want to wear a jacket and not just a long sleeve t-shirt, but then makes me regret it less than a mile in when I'm too hot.  After an awesome November, December, and January of running, February has been spring track practice weather in PA (not a good thing).

Friday, February 20, 2015

Winter Running in North Carolina

I spent the first 22+ years of my life in Western PA.  For a runner, that meant many (all?) months of the year were not ideal training conditions.  Today, I thought I would give one runner's perspective of moving from the snowiest city in America of Erie, PA, to Raleigh, NC.  As I started a draft of this post last week, I had yet to see a single flake of snow hit the ground in North Carolina.  Obviously, once I began writing this, the Triangle region has been hit with record-breaking cold temperatures and the local schools have canceled the past four days.  It's currently 15 degrees in Raleigh with a windchill of 3 degrees.

During the winter months in western PA, it was very difficult to get in any kind of speed work outside.  Roads, trails, and tracks were perpetually covered with snow and ice.  It was a great time to build a base and get some miles, but not much else.  I was lucky enough to have access to an indoor track in both undergrad and grad school, but it can get pretty nauseating after a few dozen laps on a 200 meter track.  I have done long runs of 12-14 miles on indoor tracks before (100+ laps), but I would not recommend that to anyone who wants to keep their sanity.  It was far too difficult to keep track of the laps.

Running in North Carolina has been a dream.  With the exception of this week, I have been able to run in shorts all winter long.  In fairness, the current windchill of 3 degrees is still much better than negative 18 windchill in Erie.  I always think I can pick out other runners from up north based on what they're wearing in the cold.  For me, 30-40 degrees is usually a long sleeve t-shirt with shorts and maybe a hat.  Forty degrees is a spring track practice in Pennsylvania.  When I see a runner that is bundled up enough to travel through the Article circle, I think they are probably from the south.

The treadmill is typically a last resort for me.  Although it wasn't fun, I still ran outside last year a few times when the windchill was around negative 20.  Many non-runners often scoff at hearing that, but somehow I always managed to survive and not get sick.  Given the choice, however, I may wait until it warms up a bit this afternoon before I head out into the coldest February 20 of all-time in Raleigh, NC.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Beer of the Month - January 2015

Unlike December, I had several great beers in January.  Not a new one, but I was able to enjoy some 2014 Foothills Sexual Chocolate at Busy Bee last week.  A big, sweet, super chocolate stout.  For those who like stouts that don't come with a lot of coffee flavor, look no further.  I'm not saying I would stand in line all night for this beer like some do, but it's very good.  Speaking of standing in line, the 2015 Sexual Chocolate is was released at Foothills this past weekend.  There are several releases on draft and in bottle shops this week in Raleigh, I will definitely be getting my hands on some.

My favorite beer of January is from none other than Wicked Weed.  A new bottle and sandwich shop from the owners of Trophy, called State of Beer, opened recently on Hillsborough street.  I've made several stops at this fine establishment, most recently for a Wicked Weed tap takeover.  I brake when I see a Wicked Weed truck a parking lot.  The draft list featured six offerings from Wicked Weed, including two of my favorites, Freak of Nature and Lusus Naturae.  The rest were all new to me.

The drink I ordered, and thus my beer of the month, was Dark Age.  An imperial stout aged in Four Roses barrels.  I had no choice in the matter.  Huge chocolate flavors, dark brown sugar, vanilla, and a warm bourbon finish.  My favorite dark beer from Wicked Weed thus far.

Dark Age Bourbon Stout
Wicked Weed Brewing
Russian Imperial Stout
11.9% ABV, 55 IBU
Rate: 4.5/5

My girlfriend ordered the French 75, a cocktail-inspired American Wild Ale.  I've never had anything quite like this one.  Floral, lemon, and a lot of mint, almost like a peppermint patty.  There was so much going on in this beer.  It very much reminded me more of a cocktail than beer and while it was very good, I'm not sure I could do more than one pour of this.

(Photo cred to blrea)

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Crank Arm Brewing

In my short time in Raleigh, Crank Arm has become one of my favorite breweries.  I have made a few stops here, including for their 1 year anniversary party this past August, and it's always a great time.  My girlfriend and I did the tour for the first time this past Sunday, to kick of Triangle Restaurant Week.

Crank Arm is located in downtown Raleigh, right in the heart of the Warehouse District.  Mike Morris, one of the co-founders and brewer, gave us the tour.  Mike gave us some great insight into the brewing process, having been a professional brewer for 16 years.  Crank Arm is not a big space (we stood in one spot for the entirety of the tour), but can pump out a ton of beer.

Some of my favorite beers in the Triangle come from this brewery, including the Unicycle Single Hop Pale Ale.  Each time the Unicycle is brewed, they use a different hop.  This time, it was Exp 342.  Unicycle is always good, and it's cool to see how using a different hop changes the beer, while keeping the other ingredients consistent.  My girlfriend had one of my favorite stouts, Motivator, that uses Videri cocoa nibs Cafe de los Muertos dark roast coffee.  She also tried two others that she really enjoyed: the Icycle and Beetaway.

(Photo cred to blrea)

While many breweries and bars in the Triangle host run clubs (such as Big Boss), Crank Arm has a bike club.  I've never attended as I'm not much of a biker, but from their online posts it seems to get a great turnout.  Crank Arm doesn't serve food, but it is very close to some great spots that you can order from.  They have menus inside for the nearby restaurants.

On January 22 at 2:22 PM, Crank Arm released a 9 month old Bourbon Barrel Aged Imperial Stout, that I was able to get a hold of.  More on that later.

As mentioned in the captions, the first two photos are from Jill Knight of the News & Observer.  You can read the full article here.

319 W. Davie St
Raleigh, NC 27601

Friday, January 23, 2015

The Church Brew Works

This post is long overdue.  While up north for the holidays, my girlfriend and I stopped at one of the coolest places in Pittsburgh, just a few blocks from where I used to live, the Church Brew Works.

One of the most popular breweries and restaurants in general in Pittsburgh is located in the neighborhood of Lawrenceville in an old church and has been operating since 1996.  The history section of their website gives an extensive background.  Obviously, I love it for the beer.  But one of the great things about Church Brew Works is it draws people of all ages and interests because of their great food and unique setting.

On this day I had the Coffee Stout.  A solid coffee stout but not as rich and thick as I would like.  My girlfriend had the Pipe Organ Pale Ale on Sriracha cask.  We had the pierogis for an appetizer.  I've had many pierogis in my day, most for pleasure and a dozen or so for competition, and these were good.

The Church Brew Works have an extensive list of beers they make.  Something I always liked about them was they seemed to be really involved in the craft beer community in Pittsburgh.  Whether it be a festival, Pittsburgh Craft beer week, or hosting Pittsburgh MASH with Brooklyn Brewery, Church Brew Works was always there.  If you're visiting Pittsburgh, it should be near the top of your list.

3525 Liberty Ave.
Pittsburgh, PA 15201

Running in 2015

I think about running far more than I think about craft beer, but up until now that has not translated into more blog posts.  In fairness, you can practically stumble in any direction here in the triangle and land in a brewery (I often do).  An easy post to start off would be what I want from running this year.

Except for a short hiccup along the way, I have been running fairly consistently for the past 8 years since I took that first step at cross country practice when I was 15.  When I started grad school, I stopped racing.  I kept running, but it was hard for me to keep a consistent training schedule and just couldn't commit to a race.  I put the miles in, but had very sporadic workouts, long runs, etc.  It's a lame reason, but I was just content with staying in shape until school was over.

School is now over.  In 2015, I want to race.  I'll start off with a 5k, and if I can get into a consistent schedule and build up my miles, hopefully a half marathon.  At the moment, I'm at roughly 30-35 miles a week on 6 days.  I feel pretty good about my fitness level.  I typically average around 7:00-7:10 per mile for a 4-6 mile easy run, but I have not been doing workouts and am not in racing shape.  I work 12 hour shifts on weekdays and often run after work on those days, but it's been tough to get a consistent schedule.  With my two-week schedule at work, it may be easier for me to run 7 days one week and 5 the next, so I think that is something I'm going to try.

I don't have strict goals for this year, but I probably should.  For now I'm aiming at averaging as close to 6 days per week as I can, building to a consistent long run of 10+ miles, building to 50 miles per week, and racing.  Here we go.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Sub Noir Brewing Company

Last night my girlfriend and I headed over to Sub Noir Brewing Company for the first time, while also meeting some of the 919 beer crew.  The 919 Beer Team is a group dedicated to "building, engaging, educating, and resourcing the local craft beer community" here in the 919 area code.  Their website, social media accounts, and events have been a great way to get involved in the craft beer community, especially for someone like myself who has only been here since June.  This past September, they organized Beericana, one the most fun and best run beer festivals I have attended.  They also have a podcast that I really enjoy.  Each month they hold an event called Taste the Triangle.  The January event took us to Sub Noir Brewing Company.

For $10, you got a tour, a pint, and a glass to take home.  The owner/brewer and his wife gave us some great insight to how this place got started, and answered many questions from the crowd.  Sub Noir is tucked in a small office space off Wake Forest Rd, with all the brewing done in-house.  The owner described his brewing setup as "homebrewing on steroids."  They are in the very early stages with no bottling and very little keg distributing, but expansion is already in the works.  They have acquired the office space next door to open their tap room up, and mentioned they hope to have some kind of distribution by this summer.

As far as the beer goes, my first pint was their D-Bag Double IPA.  It was a very solid DIPA, but for being listed as 100+ IBUs, I was expecting more of a punch from the hops.  It had a nice sweetness to it to balance it out.  My girlfriend had the Eccentrica Ginger Tripel.  Finally, I tried the Zee Count, a chocolate stout brewed with Count Chocula and aged on Videri cocoa nibs.  I'm a sucker for Halloween cereals so naturally I was drawn to this beer.  I will pay literally tens of dollars for a Frankenberry beer.  On second thought, there is no way that wouldn't be a disaster.

(photo cred to blrea)

Taste the Triangle was a great opportunity to get an inside look at a local brewery, while meeting some new friends as well.  We tapped out a little early to see the Wolfpack fall short against the Tar Heels.  Sub Noir is a unique place and a great addition to the craft beer scene here in the triangle.  The brewer mentioned his favorite style is sours and that's what he hopes to expand on in the future.  I always like to hear when brewers put the most effort into brewing what they enjoy, not necessarily what they think they can sell.  I'm looking forward to see what they do with expansion in distribution in 2015!

2039 Progress Court
Raleigh, NC 27608

My "running and beer" blog now is about 99% beer.  

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Blue Mountain Brewery

While traveling up north for the holidays, my girlfriend and I made a visit to Blue Mountain Brewery in Afton, VA.  This brewery happened to be right on the route we were taking, so it was a convenient stop.  This brewery being right off our route had nothing to do with me choosing this route.  I swear.  The restaurant had a decent crowd for Christmas Eve, with several other travelers thinking like we did.

First off, the space is huge.  The have tons out outdoor seating with beautiful views.  Inside is very large as well, except for the bar.  It wasn't bad on Christmas Eve, but on a normal day I can imagine it's not easy grabbing a seat there.  I'm not familiar with the area, but it seems to be in the middle of nowhere.  I read some Yelp reviews beforehand, and it seems like the place is always packed.  I can't imagine it has much competition.

To go along with our beer tasting, we ordered some pretzels and cheese, the perfect compliment to a flight.  The flight gave us ten 2.5 oz samples of beer.

Of the ten, I was least impressed with the Euro Lager.  A very light body, some bitterness, and an easy drinker.  To me it was a standard Euro lager, but just not really my style.  My favorite of the day was the Barrel Aged Sensible Mole.  It started with some malt, a bit of hops, and a great flavor from the bourbon.  Very smooth and balanced.  My girlfriend, who is typically not a fan of the big barrel-aged beers, enjoyed this one.

(Photo cred to blrea)

It was a fun afternoon in Afton, VA.  Being that this is such an easy stop on the trek to PA, I'll probably be back again.  I occasionally see some beer from Blue Mountain here in Raleigh.  Overall, I'd say their lighter beers (Kolschs, pale ales, etc.) have been pretty average for me.  On the other side, I have really enjoyed several of their bigger, darker beers (Sensible Mole, Dark Hollow, and Nitro Porter).

Blue Mountain Brewery
9519 Critzer Shop Road
Afton, VA 22920

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Top Beers of 2014

The year of 2014 was the year of beer for me.  I traveled to several bars, breweries, states, and more, unlocking probably a few too many badges on Untappd along the way.  After a year like this, a lot of the average beers star to blend together.  I remember each of these 5 like it was yesterday.

5. 2011 Southern Tier Bourbon Barrel Backburner
The first great beer of 2014 came very early in the year for me, on January 10th, at my favorite bar in Pittsburgh (Caliente Pizza & Draft House).  It was a packed house with brewery reps on site for this special event.  It was malty, slightly hoppy, some brown sugar, and the bourbon heaviness punched you right in the face.  The regular Backburner is 14.1% ABV.  This special tapping was bourbon barrel aged since 2011, with a higer ABV.  Thus, my love for bourbon barrel aged beers began.

4. Voodoo Cowbell Imperial Oatmeal Milk Stout
It's a shame that it took me so long to get to such a great brewery only 45 minutes from where I went to grad school.  I finally made it this past May and I was not disappointed.  The brewpub is an interesting place to say the least, with wooden doors hanging from the ceiling and red vintage refrigerators.  This nitro poured jet black and tasted of milk chocolate, coffee, some sweetness, and was extremely balanced.  This is the best stout I've ever had.

3. Troegs Nugget Nectar
People go crazy for this beer in PA.  There was a ton of hype for it in Pittsburgh, and when I finally got my hands on it it became my favorite beer until these next two came along.  Classified as an "American Amber / Red Ale" on Beer Advocate, this is clearly not your average amber.  It balances a nice malt background with the IBUs comparable to that of a DIPA.  Great beer.

2. Wicked Weed Freak of Nature
I never had a chance to taste their beers up north, but I often heard a lot of hype about a relatively new brewery from Asheville that was exploding in popularity.  The hype is real.  I grab Wicked Weed at every chance I get now that I live in North Carolina.  They don't make a bad beer.   This west coast IPA blew me away when I first had it this past September.  Huge citrus and hops that are perfectly balanced.  It was very hard for me not to put this at #1.

1. Fat Heads Hop Juju
Although Wicked Weed has a strong claim for my favorite brewery, I've only been having them since this past summer when I moved to Raleigh.  Fat Heads quickly became my favorite brewery this past year living in Pittsburgh, visiting the saloon in Southside many times, and for now will keep the title.  A seasonal DIPA that I unfortunately will not be able to get in North Carolina.  Lots of citrus, hops, some sweetness, and very drinkable considering the ABV and IBUs.  Drink two at your own risk.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Beer of the Month - December 2014

I had many solid beers during this last month of 2014, but nothing blew me away.  Looking back on Untappd, I gave one beer a 4.5.  A couple weeks ago over in Durham, I enjoyed Bull City Burger and Brewery's 2013 Bourbon Barrel Aged Snow Hill Winter Warmer.  It may be easier to list all the ingredients in the beer than to type that out.  The draft list described this as an American style barley wine with higher IBUs than normal.  I'm typically not a barley wine fan, but I really enjoyed this beer.  Bull City really nailed this one with the hops, spices, and bourbon flavor.

(Disclaimer: Not my pic)

I've been to Bull City a few times now and I really enjoy it.  The food, the atmosphere, the beer, it's always a great time.  I haven't done the tour yet, but I will have to sometime soon.

Rate: 4.5/5