Training: Recovering and Easy Runs

Training last week was anything but exciting.  I ran the Shamrock half last Sunday, and I can’t say I’m fully recovered from the race.  I had thought about jumping into the Love Run Half in Philadelphia yesterday, but I didn’t feel like racing hard when I didn’t feel 100%.

Most of my runs throughout the week were easy, and there was too crazy.  I ran a couple of times with my husband before he left on Tuesday.  On Saturday, I ran into one of coworkers during her first run back after an injury that involved surgery.

I did have two workouts to ease me back into running hard:

Thursday:
8X2 min hard (average 6:21 pace)
4X45 seconds hard (average 6:00 pace)
4X 30 seconds hard (average 6:00 pace…goal was 5:27)

I didn’t feel awful during my workout on Thursday, but my calves felt sore.  After my workout, I went and got ART on my calves from Dr. Kemonosh and staff, which immediately loosened them up.  Why I didn’t go earlier in the week is a mystery to me.  They are still tight, but significantly looser than beforehand.

Sunday:
As I mentioned, I contemplated jumping into the Love Run, but my body was not ready.  Could I have finished?  Yes but I know I wouldn’t have been happy or thrilled with the result.
3X1 mile (6:20 average per mile)
3×1000 (6:19 average per mile)
3X600 (6:01 average per mile)

While this workout was slower than anticipated, I was proud of myself for getting out the door and getting it done.

Next Week:

Next week I’m racing the Phillies 5k (In the last 12 months, it is my fastest 5k).  I’m looking forward to it.  I have talked with my coach recently, and I believe I run my best as well as being mentally happier when I race frequently.  We will be adding several 5ks in my calendar and racing more frequently.

Posts from the week:
Why 5ks are the Best
Shamrock Half Marathon (1:26.49)
3 Years or Reviewing NJ Diners

Questions fo you:
Do you find yourself running better when you race more or less?
What was your best workout of the week?

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Three Years of Diner Reviews

It’s now been three years since I started reviewing Diners.  Since starting my quest, I’ve been to about 130 diners in New Jersey and about 50 diners in other parts of the world. You can see reviews here or using the link at the top of the blog.

March of 2014 is when I first started reviewing diners.  At year three, I decided to highlight some of my favorite (and not so much diners).  Keep in mind, these are my personal favorites.  Do you have a favorite or different opinion about a New Jersey diner?  Comment below.

All Time Favorite Diner: Mastoris

Mastoris isn’t a typical diner.  It’s more of a modern and upscale restaurant, but I like their food and cake.  This was one of the first diners I went too and I still continue to go back.

Least Favorite Diner: Garden State Diner, Ponzios or Stafford

Each diner was a definite letdown.  Ponzios served me a salad with still frozen fish and canned pears.   It’s a shame because Ponzios is almost always listed as a “top NJ diner”, but I haven’t had a positive experience any of the three times I’ve gone!

Diner gone to the most times: Vincentown

I used to live closer to Vincentown.  Sadly, the quality of the food and service has gone down hill, so I haven’t been much at all.  I went from going three times a month to none.  I’ve been 30+ times

Best cake: Mastoris (I wanted them to make my wedding cake, but they wouldn’t deliver).

Mastoris Cake
But which cake to get?  Hint: We got both carrot cake and red velvet cake

Personal Favorite Diners: 

Year 3, didn’t bring any significant changes to my “all time” favorite list.
Mastoris Great cake
Jefferson Diner Also great cake
State Line Diner Also great cake
Chit Chat Diner Great atmosphere
Mustache Bills Quinetesantal diner of NJ

Tropicana How many “tropical” diners do you know of?

Healthiest Diner: Silver Diner (it’s a chain, and there are a few across the east coast).  How many diners have Quinoa pancakes or a roasted vegetable salad? 

Best Coffee: Any diner that serves the local Lacas coffee and has homemade whipped cream.  Candlewyck Diner coffee

Worst Coffee: Princetonian: they charge for refills!

Biggest portions: Tropicana: For $24, I received all of this food.  I had run 15 miles and still made a full meal out of leftovers.

tropicana diner

Best value: Elmer Diner (cinnamon roll) and Angelos (my entire meal was $5) Angelos Diner Glassboro Nj

At the Elmer Diner: A Coffee, cinnamon bun, eggs, toast, and hashbrowns was $8.00.  You can’t beat that!

Most expensive: Vincentown: They charge 75 cents extra per coffee with whipped cream.  I’ve ordered a salad with salmon which costs $20+.  Every meal is going to be at least $18.

Best Pancakes: Red Velvet Pancakes at Four Seasons Diner: Unlike the Springfield Diner, they were actually red velvet.  The cream cheese frosting was perfect. Four Seasons Diner Toms River

Best Eggs: The Surburban Diner offered a unique breakfast bowl with hashbrowns, melted cheese, onions and a fried egg on top.  You don’t see that many diners!suburban diner

Best Diner Gyro: The Woodstown Diner.  Gyros are a staple of any diner.  I haven’t posted the review yet, but the Woodstown diner had a neatly packaged gyro with plenty of meat.  It was easy to eat as well!

Woodstown Diner

Best Decor: 

Chit Chat Diner: I love the black and white retro theme. 

Tropicana Diner: It felt like a blast from the Carribean. 

Tropicana diner

Angelos: It’s the metallic trolley car diner that you picture.

Angelos Diner Glassboro Nj

Best Out of State Diners:

Trolley Car, Philadelphia (fresh ingredients as well as beer on tap)

John’s City Diner, Birmingham (Best chicken and waffles)

So where does my diner journey go next?

 

Questions for you:
Have you been to any NJ diners? 
Do you have any diner recommendations from anywhere? 

John’s City Diner (Birmingham, Al)

First, did you know it’s International Waffle Day?  It’s the perfect day to celebrate at a diner…

When I relocated to Alabama, I knew I had to go John’s City Diner. It has been consistently named one of Alabamas best diners. Making the time to get to the diner is tough.

For a diner, it has odd hours including not being open on Sundays and only open for dinner on Saturdays.  So yes, John’s City Diner is not open for breakfast on weekends.  Due to my schedule, I almost thought I wouldn’t be able to make it there at all.

Johns City Diner is located right in downtown Birmingham.  Since it’s in the downtown, it’s located in a row of buildings and not the usual stand-alone diner you see.

Johns City Diner Birmingham

Atmosphere: B
The outside has a big sign that says, Johns. There isn’t a lot from the outside that screams diner. In fact, it’s easy to miss the restaurant unless you’re looking for it.  I ran by it twice during the Drum Run and had no idea.

The inside is painted to match a diner atmosphere. There are several booths and tables. There is an awkward bar in the corner, but it doesn’t appear to be used much.

Coffee: A
The coffee was brewed fresh, and the whipped cream was homemade. It was one of the better diner coffee I’ve had recently.Johns City Diner Birmingham

Service: C
The waitress seemed preoccupied or as if she was having a bad day. Even though we got there at opening (5 pm), it took a while for our table to receive food and drinks.

Food: B
The menu at Johns City Diner is limited. There is a single page of food, and they are well known for their mac and cheese as well as chicken and waffles. I had been very excited to try their chicken and waffles, but when we went, they were out of chicken. To be honest, I was disappointed but what can you do.

For an appetizer, we ordered the fancy bacon which was bacon with grits. It was a small portion, but the bacon and grits were delicious.  It was rich and while small, quite filling.  It was some of the best grits I’ve had!

Johns City Diner Birmingham

Because they were out of chicken and waffles, I ordered the pork chops. I was pleasantly surprised because it was a huge portion of pork chops. I was expecting a smaller size. The pork chops were delicious and cooked perfectly. It also came with a large portion of sweet potatoes and garlic spinach. I enjoyed both. Johns City Diner Birmingham

I was disappointed Johns City Diner was out of their signature menu item, but the food was still good.  I was able to go again right before we left and ordered the chicken and waffles.  It was by far the best chicken and waffles I’ve had to date.  The chicken portion was actually bigger than the waffle! Johns City Diner Birmingham

Dessert: A
We ordered the white chocolate bread pudding which was perfect. I have no complaints.  I prefer bread pudding that is actually a peice of bread so this fit the bill. Johns City Diner Birmingham

Cost: $$
For my coffee, the appetizer, entree, and dessert the cost was $40. It was pricey for a diner, but I’m not sure I would classify Johns City Diner as a diner.

Overall thoughts/ Summary:
I liked Johns City Diner, but I was extremely disappointed they were out of the chicken and waffles.  If I’m in the area, I would like to come back, but with their limited weekend hours, I don’t know if that’s possible.

Atmosphere: B
Coffee: A
Service: C
Food: B
Dessert: A
Cost: $20+
Overall: B

Similar Diners: Vincentown, Mastoris

Questions for you:
Were is the best place you’ve had chicken and waffles? 
Has a restaurant ever been out of something you were excited to order?

Why 5ks are the Best

It’s no secret that I love racing 5ks. While I love racing in general, 5ks are the easiest to distance to race hard, recover, and race again next week.

Recently I was asked about tips and strategies of how to race and PR.  I can show you what has worked well for me in the past.  Keep in mind I’m not a coach or an elite!

During a 5k, you have two options:

Option 1: You blink, and the race is over

Option 2: You take the race out too fast, and it feels like five back to back marathons.

If you’ve run more than one 5k, you’ve probably experienced both situations.

So first why race such a short tactical and precise race?

It’s clear the marathon bug has bit a lot of people. The word “only” becomes associated with half marathons.

“New Runner” has become associated with those training for 5ks. To be honest, despite being short, 5ks are one of the hardest races distances to run well. There is little room for error.  Thinking out loud, most any athlete can benefit from adding a few 5ks into their training plan.

But Why?

Reason 1: The need for speed: 5ks make you feel fast. Longer distances make you feel strong while shorter distances make you feel fast.

5ks are quick and dirty. 5ks are all of a distance “race pain” in a short amount of time.

Reason 2: Easier to Recover From: If you have a terrible race, try again next week: I’ve had a terrible 5ks only to be followed by an awesome 5k the following week.

A few years ago, I raced one of the most mentally challenging and grueling 5ks I’ve ever run. It was slow (for me), my legs were fatigued, and I felt awful. I had high expectations and fell hard. I was devastated.

What did I do? I rested and recovered.  The following weekend, I ran an entire 90 seconds faster.
Reason 3: Benchmarks:  You can mark your progress. Two years ago in my quest to gain speed back, I raced no less than 30 5ks in a year.  I was able to track my progress and see small results lead to bigger results.

For some people, myself included, seeing progress is motivating. I like to feel like my hard work is paying off!

Reason 4: 5ks are Fun! It’s one of the few distances you can see a range of people finish. It could be someone’s first 5k or someone going for a PR. Either way, you see a broad range of people from every fitness level!

Tips for Racing 5ks:

These are tips that have helped me throughout the years.  I haven’t counted, but I’ve probably run about 100 5ks.  They still remain my favorite distance.

  • Get a good warmup:  While I don’t always warm up for longer distances such as a half marathon, I find I need to warm up at least 2-3 miles with a few striders before a 5k.  You want that blood pumping.
  • Pacing: I’ve learned that you have to give a 5k everything you have and then keep giving it more. If you take out a 5k too slow, you can often regret it in the last mile.  My goal is always to make it through the middle mile.  I remind myself after mile 2, the race is almost over.
  • Run the Tangents: Okay yeah so .1 doesn’t matter, but realistically it does! A tenth of a mile run in tangents can mean an extra 30-40 seconds.  In such a short race, that is even bigger of a deal.
  • The 5k Hurts: Of course it is easier to finish running a 5k versus a marathon, but it is not easier to race a 5k.  The 5k is all of the pain of a half or full marathon in a short amount of time.  Look around while you’re running and you will see plenty of other runners, riding the pain train.

The 5k is a rewarding and fun distance.  Sure, it’s the shortest to complete but that doesn’t make it the easiest!

Incase you missed any of the previous weeks Running Store and Training:
Thoughts While Working in the Running Store
Should Race in Racing Flats?
Are you Getting Enough Protein for Running?

Questions for you:

What is your favorite race distance?
When was the last 5k you ran?

 

 

Shamrock Half Marathon (1:26.49)

Last year, at Shamrock Half Marathon I ran a 1:26.50.  This year, my chip time was a 1:26.49.  While not a course PR, I did beat last years time.  Despite the race conditions being very similar (I.E. awful), for me, the races themselves were drastically different.  My last mile last year was probably 7:30+ and this year my last mile was a 6:11.

So let’s start from the beginning.  Shamrock was never a goal race for me.  It’s a race I like to do and I was hoping to run better than last year.

How did I quantify running better? By not only having a faster race but also not drastically blowing up like last year.

So technically, even though I’m much faster than 1:26 fitness, I did achieve my goals. But to be honest, I’m effing tired of running in terrible conditions.  Over the past year, I haven’t many longer races that are in decent conditions.  Most races have been in either pouring rain, sleet, snow, high humidity or windy. The only good weathered race that comes to mind is the Runners World Half, but I ran a 5k the day before.

Enough complaining! Last Friday, I prepared for the worst weather and brought my thick mittens, waterproof Gortex jacket, and appropriate attire.  By now, I know I need to be overdressed in cold, pouring rain or I’ll be miserable.

My coach James Mckirdy, Heather, Dad and I got to the race around 6 am, and we were lucky enough to stay with a personal friend right near the start.  I warmed up with Mollie and Heather.  I rarely do half marathon warmups, but while warming up, I didn’t feel terrible or even that cold.  It was pouring rain, but I wasn’t “as” miserable as last year.

We got to the race start at 7 am, and we were quickly off.  The first two miles were into a headwind.  With the headwind, I began settling into a negative mindset.  I hit the first mile in 6:59.  I was devastated.  Another race I had tapered for only to be foiled by rain.  I tried to clear my mind but just progressed on.

In hindsight, it’s easier to look back and see…yes it was windy.  Yes, the weather was awful.  In the moment, when you look down and quickly see you aren’t hitting your goal, it stinks.  I ran the second mile in 6:58.  It was mindless, and I was just staying with a pack of people.

shamrock half marathon me running 2017
So happy

As we rounded mile 3, I felt a wind break.  While it was still raining, it wasn’t as windy.  I ran a 6:54. Around mile 3, I wasn’t sure I would break 1:30 but I hoped I would be able to pick it up.  It’s a long gradual uphill from about miles 3-5.

During the fourth mile, one of the UGH moments of running happened.  My shoe came untied.  I was running in a new pair of Saucony flats, and while I did double knot them, they came untied.  Was it a combination of pouring rain and the material the shoe laces are made out of?  Probably because it happened 3 times and it stunk.  Looking closely at the shoe laces, the plastic coating seems to be the cause.

I stopped to tie my shoe and progressed on.  I didn’t catch the people I was with until around mile 5-6.  With the stop I ran the 4th mile in 6:49 but I was motivated because I knew I stopped for at least 15 seconds.  The race clock doesn’t stop when you tie your shoe, so neither does my garmin. shamrock half marathon me running 2017

I ran the next two miles by myself.  I was alone and lost in my own thoughts.  The race conditions were awful, but I was slowly changing my mindset. I ran the next two miles in 6:30 and 6:36.

As we entered Fort Story, I thought about last year.  Last year, the wind from Fort Story broke me.  I went from running around 6:30 miles to running 7+ and crawling to the finish line.  I was determined not to let that happen.  The wind was blowing more through Fort Story this year, and it had blown sand across a section of course.  We ran through 2 inches of sand!

This year, I felt good during the middle miles, and I credit most of that to overdressing.  My other shoe lace came untied, and I briefly stopped to tie it.  I ran a 6:37 mile.  As I began thinking about the finish, I knew my body felt able and willing to run faster than a 1:30 than I had previously anticipated during the first few miles.shamrock half marathon me running 2017

I crossed mile 9 in 6:24 and mile 10 in 6:25.  I began catching a few people, and one male was running with me.  I saw Chris who ended up finishing a few feet in front of me and 7th lady overall.  The man told me to “go with her”…

The last three miles were a blur.  I just found myself counting down the miles.  2 miles to go and then 1 and then the final mile.  I saw James and Heather with about .5 to go and shouted: “I’m not dying”.  I guess that is always a good thing for an athlete to say. I also saw my friend Sika, who had raced the One City Marathon the weekend before.

As we approached the boardwalk, I saw the finish line, and I knew it would be close to my previous time.  Until that moment, I hadn’t even dreamed it was a possibility to actually run faster than 2016.

For no reason, I mentally separate a 1:26.XX half in a different category as a 1:27+-half.  I wanted to break 1:27 and sprinted to the finish. shamrock half marathon me running 2017

I crossed in 1:26.50…the same time as last year.  With chip timing, my official time was 1:26.49.

shamrock half marathon me running 2017
My husband didn’t run but still came out to support us!

Thoughts:

To be honest, I’m tired of racing in bad conditions.  While I’m proud of myself for handling the race well this year, I am also tired of not racing in good (not even ideal but good) conditions.  I feel as though I’ve been in PRing shape for the last 6 months but the weather has had other plans.  I’m hoping the April Fools Half Marathon will have better weather.

Questions for you:
What is the worst race conditions you’ve run in?
Which race have you done the most times?

 

Training: Blizzards, 800s and a Half Marathon

Last week I tapered and got ready for the Shamrock half marathon.  While it wasn’t my primary goal race (The April Fools half in Atlantic City is), I still wanted to do well.  The weather forecast changed multiple times from might rain, to definitely raining, to wintery mix.  Basically the same as last year.

Training:

Monday:  6 miles
Tuesday: 5X800s (6:11, 6:07, 6:05, 6:03, 6:00)
Wednesday:  7 miles
Thursday:  7 miles
Friday: OFF
Saturday: 60 minutes easy
Sunday: Shamrock Half Marathon (1:26.50)
 Total:  40 miles

Thoughts:

Workouts: 5X800s (6:11, 6:07, 6:05, 6:03, 6:00)

I’m always the least motivated to do short workouts.  Tuesday was no exception.  As most people know the Northeast had a significant snow storm that closed most things down that day.  I had no interest slipping around on ice with a regular run, let alone workout.

While the goal was to run 6:00 for the 800s, I was happy for getting the workout in and on a treadmill.

The rest of the runs were easy and in the cold.  I am ready for Spring!

Shamrock Half Marathon:

I’ll have more about this later in the week.  I ran a 1:26.50, which is exactly the same time as last year.  The conditions were not ideal, and throughout the race it rained, sleeted and hailed as well as a severe headwind.  It would be a lie to say I’m “happy” with the time because I know I’m in better fitness shape.  I am also tired of running in inclement weather.

While the race time is the same, it was an entirely different race from last year.  Last year, I took it out fast and crashed.  This year I ran smart for the first few miles, and my last mile was a 6:11.

While I know Shamrock was not a goal race, I was hoping to be faster than a 1:26.

Posts from the Week:
How I got to into Running
Should You be Getting More Protein?
Brooks Launch 4 Shoe Review

Questions for you:
Have you raced in inclement weather?
What was your best workout of the week?

Landmark Diner (Charlotte, NC)

While traveling through Charlotte, my husband and I chose to stop at the Landmark Diner. It’s been on a Diners, Drive Ins and Dives so we figured it must be good. We got there around 7 pm, and the hostess told us there was a 25-minute wait. We were surprised but thought it must be good.

As we were waiting, the hostess rudely told multiple customers they needed to wait outside. Then she couldn’t remember or find the people she was looking for. For the 25 minutes we waited, we noticed multiple tables that weren’t being used and were perfectly clean. Needless to say, we started off on the wrong foot.

Atmosphere: C
The atmosphere of the Landmark Diner is outdated. They could use a makeover.

The outside has plenty of lighting and is easily spotted from the highway.

Service: F
I will preface this by saying our waitress was extremely friendly. She clearly had too many tables, but she took great care of us.

I can’t overlook how rude the hostess was. She threw our menus on the table, told guests they needed to wait outside and couldn’t care any less. Unforatetely, the hostess, is the first person we saw, and we watched her for close to half an hour.

The food in the kitchen also took almost an hour to come out. We saw multiple larger parties receive their food much quicker. By the time we received our food, we had been in the Landmark Diner for nearly 90 minutes.  With the exception of our actual waitress, it was by far one of the worst experiences I’ve had while dining out.

Coffee: A
The coffee at the Landmark Diner was good. There was nothing unusual about it, but it was often refilled and always warm.  It took a while to come out, but once it arrived, it was good.

Landmark diner charlotte

Food: C
After waiting about an hour for our food, I had no idea what to expect. The Landmark Diner has every stereotypical diner option you could imagine. I wanted to order the roasted leg of lamb, but they were out. I decided to go with their land and sea special. It came with 10 ounces of steak and shrimp.

The steak was good for a diner and seasoned well. Sometimes diner steak can be hit and miss.  The side of shrimp side was just as good. It was well seasoned with just a touch of old bay seasoning.

Landmark diner charlotte

The sides, however, were dry and stale. The sweet potatoes were doused in butter, and the French fries and onion rings were cold. Landmark diner charlotte

I liked the main entree but left the fries.

Dessert: B
While waiting to be seated, we had stared at the dessert for 30 minutes beforehand, and I knew I wanted the red velvet cake. We ordered the red velvet cake with vanilla ice cream. Like the mean, the main component (red velvet cake) was delicious. There was plenty of frosting, and the cake itself was moist. The ice cream, however, had freezer burn.

Landmark diner charlotte

Price: $$
For the coffee, meal, cake and ice cream the cost was $28.

Overall thoughts/Would I come back?
The food was decent but I was so turned off by the hostess attitude as well as the lengthy wait, I probably won’t be back.

Summary:
Atmosphere: C
Service: F
Coffee: C
Food: C
Dessert: B
Price: $15-25
Overall: C

Questions for you:
Have you ever had a rude hostess or be asked to wait outside?
What’s the longest you’ve waited at a restaurant?