Tag Archives: review

Lululemon Wunder Under Pant Review

I purchased a pair of Lululemon’s Wunder Under Pant a few months ago and have really liked them.  They’re different than my other Lulu pants in a few ways.  They’re a different fabric, a full length tight and have only a single pocket.  After a few wears in several environments, here are the things I like about these tights in order of importance.wunder under pant

Fabric:  Nothing matters about workout gear if the fabric is awful.  Itchy, soggy, saggy anything can ruin a good sweat session.  Thankfully, Lululemon got this one right.  Slightly thicker than some of Lulu’s other fabrics, these “Full-On Luon” pants make for great outdoor workout gear.  Indoors they can be a bit warm for my taste.  The Wunder Under Pant is a built to be both “sweat-wicking” and “four-way stretch” which will provide comfortable and dry conditions through any combination of movements.

Functionality:  A “versatile, no-fuss” pant, the Wunder Under Pant can be worn for just about anything.  What it comes down to for me is pockets.  If I can fit my gels, key and ID in my pants without any additional equipment, I’m happy.  I love the functionality of a single massive pocket that can hold up to 3 gels along with a key and an ID in front of my left hip.  Even if they’re not a running specific tight, I definitely run in them and will continue to do so.  For the Crossfitters and obstacle course racers out there, they also feel sturdy enough to survive a missed box jump or tackle any obstacle without tearing wide open.Wunder Under Pant

Fit:  Designed to give a “hugged sensation”, the Wunder Under Pant doesn’t disappoint.  Snug without being constricting I’ve never once had to pull them up after a 400M repeat or set of toes to bar.  There’s no fear they might slip down or ride up.  The length is just right for low socks in the gym or high ones for a cold weather run and with complimentary hemming available at all stores, you can always make sure they’re just right.

Quality:  I’ve had good experiences with the quality of Lulu products across the board.  When one of my bra inserts was eaten by the washing machine, they were happy to replace it.  I’ve heard that pilling is a potential problem but I have had no issues with washing the tights on  regular or heavy in cold water and air drying (as with all of my workout gear).  Without the heat of a dryer, the size hasn’t changed, seams are solid and the fabric feels the same as it did on day one.

Price:  At $98 the Wunder Under Pant is a middle of the road price point for the store.  There are definitely less expensive options out there but with all of the positives I’ve already mentioned, they’re worth it.  When I have a marathon to run, the ability to pack all of my gels without an additional piece of equipment is priceless.

Meredith

**All opinions are my own.  I was not compensated in any way for this post.**

What do you look for first in workout gear?  What will you compromise on?

2015 Baton Rouge Beach Half Marathon

The 2015 Baton Rouge Beach Half Marathon was my final race of 2015 and even though I didn’t hit my goal, I had a great time at a fun event.  I flew in Friday morning for the Saturday race, getting right down to business after arriving at the airport.

A quick cab ride to the hotel, which was home to both the expo and race shuttle service, I checked in and made straight for the fitness center.  I did an easy fifteen minute post flight jog on the treadmill and for the first few minutes my hip/groin/quad felt terrible.  Maybe it was the treadmill or a bit of lingering dehydration from the flight, who knows.  By the time I finished it was feeling better, not 100%, but better and I had some mild concern about the next baton rouge beach half marathonmorning.

After a shower and a nap, I went down to the small expo to get my number.  It was assigned to me right there along with a tech shirt in unisex sizing (way too big), a race logo coozy, a pair of throw away gloves (awesome) and an race info packet.  With a bit of time to go before dinner, I hit the hotel bar for my traditional pre-race beer.  I tried the Tin Roof Brewing Gameday IPA and sipped away while watching runners pack the hotel, many in Marathon Maniacs or 50 States shirts.

In addition to a race shirt, a race course, throwaway gloves, a coozy, a finisher medal and post race treats, the Baton Rouge Beach Half Marathon entry fee includes dinner.  Just outside the expo, a table covered with gumbo, jambalaya and pizza greeted runners and supporters entering the dining area.  There was plenty of open seating as well as coolers filled with soda, bottled water and beer tucked in the corner.  The food was delicious.  It was great to chat with runners from all over the country, central New York and Tampa were both represented at my table and after cleaning my plate, I hit the hay tired, full and ready to run.

Baton Rouge Beach Half Marathon race day kicked off at 5:15am with a blueberry bagel and lots of layers for the 39 degree morning.  I packed fruit snacks and GU in my pockets then walked downstairs to catch the 5:45 race day shuttle.  Extremely limited parking at the race site meant just about everyone was parking and taking the bus at 5:45, 6 or 6:15.  The short ride from the hotel to the race site was quiet as everyone chowed down on their pre-race food and drink.  I got off the bus around 6:05 and huddle together with others waiting to start their warm-ups for the 7am race and keeping those nice warm hoodies and warm-up pants on as long as possible.

Around 6:30 I started my warm-up.  It wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be taking off my outer layers thanks to those brand new gloves.  My nerves subsided when hip/quad/groin felt OK during warm up.  I felt solid but didn’t feel fresh or race ready.  My taper had been non-existent and I knew I’d pay for it.  A mile later, I towed the line as the nation anthem was played, announcements were made and we went off right on time.

The course is a big loop around the lake that takes you through some of LSU’s sprawling campus and through parts of a pretty neighborhood.  The full marathon is a second loop around.  I had expected flat, Shamrock flat, but there were a few small hills that totaled 120 feet of elevation gain from beginning to end.  With the race’s small size, there was plenty of running room for the entire distance and only a pair of tight turns.  Unfortunately, I knew early on this wasn’t my day.

Warm up had felt decent.  It wasn’t great, it wasn’t bad.  It was just middle of the road.  Not the ‘you’re going to nail this’ warm up I had hoped for.  After the ‘meh’ warm-up, things didn’t improve.  I took a misstep somewhere around Mile 4 and that made my injury angry for a while.  Minutes later my left shoe came untied.  When I hit the 10k mark, I thought I could still place in my age group but wouldn’t PR.  At Mile 7, I choked down fruit snacks before grabbing water at the 7.25 mile mark.  I probably should have gone with the GU I had instead, the caffeine would have been nice.  I chugged on at a steady pace for the rest of the race and crossed the Baton Rouge Beach Half Marathon finish line in 1:38.13.  In the end, it was a least a minute slower than I’d hoped for but after stopping to fix my shoe twice and standing still to drink water twice with no taper, it was a very solid run.baton rouge beach half marathon

The medal is adorable.  I love the running chicken logo and also loved the post-race food.  There were lots of choices, from fried goodies to more gumbo and canned beer.  Computers had live results and I ended up second in my age group.  I recapped the race with some of the runners I had met at dinner the night before while waiting for the awards ceremony and chowing down on more tasty Louisiana treats.  After awards I hopped right back on the shuttle for some down time before heading back to the airport.

Definitely a race worth checking out, the fast course, great people and wonderful food make it a fun event that’s easy to navigate and enjoy.  My Baton Rouge Beach Half Marathon was a great training run even if it was definitely not the race I had hoped for.  With a total lack of taper and a grumpy right leg, I’m happy to move on to marathon training and get back on track to PR the half marathon next year.

Meredith

How was your last race of 2015?  What’s next for you?

Friday Favorites: First Edition

This is my first official Friday Favorites post!  I usually do a Fit Friday, pre-race wrap up or Right Now post to break in the weekend but felt like mixing it up this month.

The Lilly Pulitzer Linen Beach Pantfriday favorites
Not only is the Red Right Return pattern lots of fun, the pants themselves are light and very comfortable.  They’re a perfect cover up when heading to the beach or hanging out at home with a wide drawstring waistband and plenty of length.  Cleaning up after a hot, sticky run feels great.  Slipping these Friday Favorites comfies on for a solid foam rolling and stretching session after that shower feels even better.

Ready to Run, Dr. Kelly Starrettfriday favorites
I first heard of Kelly Starrett and his Mobility WOD website when I starting Crossfit.  A big part of functional fitness, and solid injury free running, is proper range of motion.  It’s impossible to build strength safely when you can’t move fluidly through the movement.  As I work to perfect my running form, keep my cadence up, get faster and more powerful, I realize each day how important it really is.  My tight calves don’t help my back squat much and take away running power.  In Ready to Run, Starrett outlines 12 standards that will help you determine if you are, in fact, Ready to Run and how to get there if you’re not.  I’ve definitely seen a difference since working towards the standards I don’t already meet and can’t wait for some cooler weather to friday favoritesrace in!

Miracle-Gro Aerogarden
The third of my Friday Favorites is my brand new Aerogarden!  I’ve planted lettuce and mini tomatoes to start with herbs to follow after these seeds have been exhausted.  The light is brighter than I expected bouncing off the white walls of the corner I placed it in but I’ve set the lights to turn on at 5:15am and off around 11pm in hopes that it won’t bother anyone or any dog.  I’m excited to be able to grow these vegetables indoors since we don’t have a good flat outside spot for a garden but we do have a few cottontail rabbits living under the shed.  I can’t wait to make a nice fresh salad with what pops up and there will be plenty of pictures to follow the journey.

I don’t have any big plans this weekend other than a nice long run tomorrow and sleeping in on Sunday.  It’s been a while since I’ve had a quiet weekend and I’m looking forward to relaxing by staring at my seedlings until they sprout.

Meredith

What are your Friday Favorites this week?  Any big weekend plans like a race?

RnR Las Vegas: Part II

RnR Las Vegas was hands down the hardest training run I’ve ever completed.  I’ve run longer, I’ve run harder in more heat, more wind, ice and snow but this was a disaster.  To catch up on what happened before the race began, and quite possibly played a role in my mess of a race, check out RnR Las Vegas Part I here.

I got a solid nine hours of sleep Saturday night but when Race Morning drnr las vegasawned, I knew it hadn’t been enough to make up for Friday night’s lack.  With two nights before a race being the most important, I scrapped my start slow plan before I even climbed out of bed.  I just wanted to run with Meb.  After I got out of bed, I even questioned that.  My legs felt terrible and I could tell I just didn’t have it. The day was sunny and cool, meaning the weather for the race would be great.  I was definitely looking forward to that.  What I wasn’t looking forward to were the nine hours before race time.  My Race Day routine wasn’t possible with the Rock n Roll Las Vegas beginning at 4:30pm and that didn’t help my legs feel any better.

As those nine hours crept by, Mom and I did some shopping at the Grand Canal Shops, ate lunch and suffered through the first half of an atrocious Eagles game.  My hydration and fueling strategies were non-existent but I wasn’t concerned because I didn’t plan on ‘racing’.  Around 3:15, I put an E2 in 16 ounces of Las Vegas tap water and drank it dry just before heading to the Start.  Immediately I knew it was a mistake.  When I travel I typically stick to bottled water. Changing can upset my digestive system and it takes me a day or two to adjust.  I had been doing a good job for this trip until that moment.  The water tasted funny and I knew I’d need to use the restroom before running 13+ miles.  No worries, there would be plenty to use at the starting area.

Getting to those Port-a-Potties was an entirely different issue. The walk should only have taken 25 minutes but with huge crowds and a much further than expected distance to go, it took close to 45. My mom and I had begun the walk together but after realizing how much further I had to go, I took off at a jog, leaving my phone and any chance at Start Line photos behind me while she went to find a place to cheer from.  I continued moving towards the Start for what seemed like forever.  Eventually I did find and use one of the many Port-A-Potties near the back of Corral 48 and just as I entered, Corral 1 was released.  At that moment I stopped to retie my shoes and knew I wasn’t going to make it to my desired Meb Corral between 6 and 7.  I simply put the pedal to the metal and power walked, dodged and excused my way as far forward as I could. During this process my entire plan for the race changed.  There was no way I would be able to catch the 1:45 group starting so far behind them and with my legs feeling pretty crappy already, I just wanted to get in a solid training run.

By the time I made it to the front, I was crossing the RnR Las Vegas Starting Line with Corral 11.  I asked around the crowd and found out it was a 2 hour finish time Corral, less than ideal but it certainly could have been worse.  Mile 1 was full of traffic and about 30 seconds slower than I wanted.  After that things opened up at bit to give me some running room as I passed my cheering Mom at Mile 2.  The next six miles were pretty steady with traffic, making it hard to clock consistent half mile splits but I had some fun chatting with other runners, thanking volunteers and the LVPD and smiling for the race photographers.  I hit 5k in a leisurely 26:03, 10k at a better pace in 51:21 and was feeling pretty good after grabbing some water just before Mile 6.  While that second dose of Las Vegas water didn’t tip my system over the edge, the water stop at Mile 9 spelled the end for me.

As soon as I drank that water, I knew things were going to take a turn for the worse.  It tasted funny, immediately turning my stomach.  I couldn’t find a Port-a-Potty fast enough and when I finally did, it wasn’t pretty.  Officially dehydrated, I took off again to feet that were starting to cramp and a course filled with water that wasn’t going to help much.  Next to go were my glutes and hamstrings.  Never, ever during a run has my posterior chain gotten such a good workout.  Every muscle down the back of my body below my hips was screaming.  My knees and IT bands hurt with every step and I took some walking breaks.  Every mile seemed like to took forever.  I was in more pain than I have ever been in during any run in my life.  I had ceased caring about my long run, training and finish time while I was inside that portable restroom and just wanted to make across the line without any serious injuries.

I struggled through the final 5k to finish 13.27 miles in 1:59.36.  I’ve had bad races before, and I’m sure I’ll have one again, but this was awful. Everything below and including my abs hurt as I picked up my playing card inspired medal, immediately downed an entire bottle of water and grabbed pretzels, chocolate milk, Powerbars and a heat sheet.  My knees hadn’t felt like that in a long, long time.  My posterior chain was sore, aching and altogether upset.  I needed a foot massage and couldn’t get to my compression soon enough.  Unfortunately in the mass of people at the Finish, I missed my mom and we didn’t meet up again until we were both back at our room, which is why I don’t have any finish line photos either.rnr las vegas

In the end, the first eight miles of my RnR Las Vegas long run were very good and the last five were terrible.  It was a big learning experience and looking back, I’m actually glad I had to fight through it.  The ample support on the course, from water stops to Port-a-Potties, was great and the run through the lights was special in spite of being too busy looking at the people around me, trying not to run into them, over them and get in their way to really take in the scenery.  What I did see was pretty cool and the flat course definitely has the potential to be fast. Had I felt better, not been in a panic at the beginning and had fresher legs, I’m sure it would have been a much more enjoyable experience.

Would I run RnR Las Vegas again?  Absolutely.  I have a lot of ground to cover first (42 more states) but I’m not counting it out.  If you have the chance, I recommend giving this race a shot.  Just be sure to worry more about taking in the scenes than the people around you.

Meredith

Have you run RnR Las Vegas?  Would you?  Why or why not?

Fall 2014 Race Week 2

It’s here already!  Fall 2014 Race Week 2 kicks off tomorrow and wraps up with the Heart of Ghent 10k.  After a winning but not great performance at the Bay Days 8k, I’m hoping for good weather (cool, not very humid) and a chance to push myself before Myrtle Beach.

This week’s training was solid, especially since at least part of both Friday and Saturday’s runs were in the pouring rain.  Monday kicked off with an easy, refreshing two mile recovery run after Sunday’s twelve miler.  Tuesday was Crossfit.  Overhead squats and power snatches are two of my least favorite barbell exercises and I got them both.  I’m always scared to push myself for fear of not letting go when I should and damaging my shoulder even more.  I got through the workout without any hitches and felt good rolling into Wednesday’s 14 miler.  This week’s long run was much better than Sunday’s, most likely due to improved weather conditions and a little time to recover from a tough Saturday race.  I rested Thursday due to scheduling conflicts and had an excellent round of rainy Michigan Intervals on Friday.  The weekend kicked off with 100 burpees on the beach Saturday morning while an easy, rain soaked six miler filled in the evening.  I wrapped up the training week with a two mile recovery jog this morning in gorgeous weather and hope it sticks around!

Here’s what’s coming up for Fall 2014 Race Week 2:
Monday:  14 miles in the form of a 4-3-2-1 long run.
Tuesday:  Workout from The Fitness Games
Wednesday:  A short race pace run or a couple 400M repeats.
Thursday and Friday:  Rest.fall 2014 race week 2
Saturday:  Race Day!
Sunday:  Recovery run.

What is this Tuesday workout?  Well, Fall 2014 Race Week 2 will also feature the start of my ‘The Fitness Games’ review.  As part of my SweatPink ambassadorship I’ve been given the chance to review this fitness app and look forward to diving in.  It features workouts, challenges and much more I haven’t explored yet.  Stay tuned for my review!

Meredith

How was your training week?  Have you ever worked out with The Fitness Games?

Garmin Forerunner 210 Long Term Review

There isn’t a short term review for Garmin’s Forerunner 210 because I wasn’t writing this blog back then, but I’ve been paired with it for over 18 months now, and I think we’ve figured each other out.  When I decided to purchase my first GPS watch, I knew there were lots of GPS running products garmin210available. I had heard great things about Garmin’s offerings and when checking out different options in the store, the Garmin met my needs best.  Having super skinny wrists means its reasonable size wouldn’t bother me like something with a larger face, which was incredibly important to me, and the 210 also came in at a decent price point ($249.99).  With GPS services, heart rate monitoring, indoor and outdoor capabilities with a foot pod, preset intervals, lap timing and online tracking with connect.garmin.com, it had everything I could want in a running watch.  The package I purchased contained one GPS watch, one heart rate monitor with strap and one foot pod for use indoors.

After removing the parts from their box, I pulled out the manual and started the initial setup.  This was fairly easy, and after I relived it recently by performing a master reset, it was equally as simple even without the manual.  Setting my desired language and distance units, then age, height, and weight by using the menu and arrow buttons, the time was set by allowing the watch to locate and connect to the Garmin satellite.  Both the User Profile and Setup menus are easy to navigate and it’s here that you set your lap distance which allows you to see your splits.  Because my speed work changes from week to week, I find the Intervals function very easy to operate and extremely useful.  With options to set running and resting intervals by either time or distance, or one of each like I do (run distance, rest time), and the ability to tell the watch how many reps you plan on doing, an additional benefit is the Warm Up/Cool Down feature.  If you’ve chosen to use the Warm Up/Cool Down feature, you will begin your Interval program in Warm Up mode.  To complete your warm up and start your first run, all you have to do is hit the Lap button.  After completing your final rest interval, you will automatically go into Cool Down until you again hit the Lap button.

I love the Interval function and have never had a problem changing the run and rest distances or times.  The worst problem I have had with changing a setting has been when switching from Miles to Kilometers.  The setting is easy to find and switch, but it seems the settings menu doesn’t always communicate that with the satellite that determines your speed.  During a race last fall, I switched units (miles to km) only seconds before hitting the Start button and was running a miraculous 2 minute kilometer.  I knew something was seriously wrong with that, but it was a race, so on I went.  After about five minutes, I looked down to see a much more realistic pace and was glad the watch had sorted itself out.  I re-encountered this issue recently, but have learned to prevent it by giving the 210 a few minutes of satellite contact before hitting the start button after changing unit types.

Keeping a full charge on the watch also seems to alleviate this problem when switching distance units.  With battery life averaging 10 hours of GPS use, one full charge a week gets the job done for me.  I’ve never worn it as a normal watch, but Garmin claims the battery will last 3 weeks in power save mode.  The watch beeps to let you know your battery life is reaching its end, but does so with plenty of notice.  I’ve run for up to an hour more after hearing the dreaded tone.  A full charge does take some time, but leaving the watch on the USB wall port charger for a night always does the trick.  Getting the charger/transfer prongs and the receivers on the watch to match can be difficult, but usually a little wiggle gets the charger and the watch talking again.  If a wiggle hasn’t solved it, I’ve always been successful simply wiping off the receivers on the watch.

I’ve found that as battery life dwindles or if the sky is very overcast, the watch will struggle to find satellite reception.  Satellite pick up will also be especially slow when there’s a long history in the watch’s memory.  After logging over 1,500 miles with my running buddy, the history was starting to get a little thick and as a result, it took a few seconds longer to find satellite reception than it did with few entries.  A full memory also gave the watch trouble with pulling up History entries, so long, in fact, that the watch would alert me it was going into Power Save Mode to save battery life as it tried to get me the data I wanted.  Making sure I backed up all my data with Garmin Connect, I solved this problem very easily with a master reset.

I have had positive experience with the foot pod feature, though I have gotten feedback from others saying they had difficulty with it.  Several times at races my watch has picked up the heart rate monitors and foot pods of others, but with it programmed to ask if you’re wearing one or the other, those functions can be shut off.  I’m not much of a treadmill runner, 125 treadmill miles in eighteen months, and recently my Foot Pod began to beep and show Foot Pod Battery Low on the watch’s screen.  Like the battery of the watch itself, the Foot Pod gives you plenty of notice before giving up and lasts for another couple of hours after the first beep.  Changing the battery in the foot pod is somewhat of a challenge, but a trip to the store where I bought it quickly had the cover popped off and a new battery installed.

The connect.garmin.com site is wonderful and the technicians at Garmin are continuing to improve it.  The most difficult part of using Garmin Connect can be actually getting your watch to communicate with the computer.  As mentioned above, sometimes the receivers on the watch’s body get finicky about lining up with prongs on the USB cord and it can take a few solid shifts, wiggles and wipe-offs to get the two devices talking.  Once data is uploaded, using the Garmin Connect site is very easy.  The Calendar function is one of my favorites, and I like being told how many miles, calories and hours I’ve run, burnt and spent without having to hunt for a calculator.  The Dashboard features your PRs at various distances and most recent workouts, with the Analyze tab holds an Activities page where all activities tracked by the watch are listed in chronological order, making it easy to find specific workouts.  This tab is also home to Reports, where you can pull up your total number of miles logged in any activity type (road running, trail running, bicycling etc) over a given amount of time.  I’ll use this feature most often to check the mileage on my shoes.  You can save and manage different courses you run with the Planning tab, which also allows you to save workouts for the future and set goals.  Overall, the site is easy to navigate and using it is fairly intuitive.  The most recent addition is a Feedback feature that allows to you to click on a small button at the bottom of your Garmin Connect page and tell the techs exactly what you are thinking without leaving the site, which is a great way to make sure you remember to tell them what things you would like to see added.

The Garmin Forerunner 210 is best known as a pure runner’s watch and I love mine.  Tech support is always very helpful and the watch is simple to use.  The Garmin Connect application is likewise easy to navigate and organizing data is straightforward.  The myriad features are a major pro, as is the ease of use and the Garmin Connect site.  Cons include the sometimes slow connectivity to satellites and the occasional difficulty of connecting the watch to a computer.

The Pier Cafe

The Pier Cafe in Virginia Beach is located on the Lynnhaven Fishing Pier and is adjacent to fine dining establishment Lynnhaven Fish House.  Open Memorial Day to Labor Day, the entire outdoor dining area provides unbeatable views of Chick’s Beach and daily sunsets over the Chesapeake Bay.  Looking out onto the pier full of anglers while the salty sea breeze billows through the curtained windows and dining on a delicious seafood salad, fish taco or grilled chicken sandwich is what allows the Pier Cafe to provide a magical beach dining experience.  With stairs leading directly into the dining room from the sandy beach, the casual, family friendly atmosphere provides pier cafegreat views, convenient access and plenty of fun.

Walking into the Pier Cafe from the beach means you can avoid the parking lot altogether, which is great because parking in the Lynnhaven Fish House/Pier  Cafe shared lot can come at a premium with additional street parking being exceedingly difficult to find.  If you do need to find a spot, a few minutes of waiting or a couple of laps around the lot usually helps something open up.

If you choose to park, you’ll walk through the pier house and enter the Pier Cafe through a blue door heading into a narrow hallway that leads to the small indoor dining room.  With bar seating for six, two high top tables with two seats each along the wall and several larger tables able to accommodate up to fifteen people total in any combination of configurations, this indoor area is intimate and uncluttered.  Passing through the indoor dining room, you’ll go through automatic sliding doors onto the pier itself.  Enclosed by walls made of a lower half of wood and an upper half of blue nylon with zip out windows, the outdoor area with seating for about 60 reaches straight towards the bay in two lines of four top tables.  Seated at one of the two high top tables in the indoor dining room, we were quick to peruse the hand written menu of widely varied beer menu that featured domestic bottled beer and hand crafted draft and bottled beers that was hanging above the bar on a white board.  With choices from New Belgium Brewery, Anheuser-Busch and Sam Adams, the hand written beer menu implies that it changes frequently.  When our server Mike arrived, I asked about wines and he recited a well-rounded, though not extensive, wine list from which I chose the Canyon Road Sauvignon Blanc.pier cafe2

A common trend at the Pier Cafe is to wait indoors for a table on the pier, so we were not immediately given dining menus, but after notifying him we planned on staying put, Mike quickly delivered two surf board shaped menus along with our drink order.  Featuring a list that included appetizers, sandwiches and the Pier Cafe’s signature salads and crab cakes, the surf board menu’s top side had food choices while the bottom of the board showcased Pier Cafe signature drinks.  After selecting our dinner choices, we waited no more than fifteen minutes before the Seafood Caesar Salad and Fresh Catch Fish Tacos arrived.  My massive salad was served on a fish-shaped plate and the fish tacos were resting on a plate with a similar fish theme.  The fish tacos were light, and even though the pico de gallo led to a little runniness, they contained plenty of protein and were complimented perfectly by a side of rice and beans.  My large seafood salad had more than ample servings of shrimp and scallops on a big bed of romaine and iceberg lettuce.  The Caesar salad was nicely seasoned without being soggy, had croutons enough to give it a real crunch and was extremely filling.

A second round of drinks let dinner settle and helped us select a dessert from the lovely Pier Cafe dessert tray.  Chocolate tort, caramel chocolate cake, New York cheesecake, and key lime pie (with real key limes) flashed in front of our eyes before we decided on the layered chocolate cake with drizzles of caramel and a side of vanilla ice cream.  When the large slice of cake and big scoop of ice cream were placed on our table, the drinks were put down until the last of our delicious sweets were scraped onto our utensils.

Because of its home on the fishing pier, the Cafe shares restrooms with the anglers, which could be an inconvenience for those with difficulty moving about.  Located outside of the Cafe’s blue front door, on the opposite side of the pier right beside a game room that holds several arcade games and a quarter powered pool table, means they’re a little bit of a walk from the Cafe’s outdoor dining area.  This doesn’t do anything to damage the restaurant’s spirit and is a great way to see a little bit more of one of Virginia Beach’s most popular piers.

A wonderful meal of fresh seafood and delicious desserts in a quiet dining room overlooking the beaches of Chesapeake Bay make the Pier Cafe a can’t miss.  A reasonably priced, small but not boring menu and fish themed dinner wear give the Pier Cafe a distinctly family friendly, beach infused attitude.  Great service from knowledgable and professional staff members ensure the Pier Cafe is a great step off the beach for lunch or dinner.  With a lack of carbo loading choices on the protein rich menu, the Cafe might not be the best stop for a pre-race meal, but the atmosphere and beach access make it a wonderful place to relax and recap with one friend or ten afterwards.  Be sure to grab a Pier Cafe t-shirt as you leave, then make plans for your return.

And We’re Off…!

Fall 2013 Race Season kicked off with the Sandbar 5K today and a great start it was.  I finished 2nd in my age group and 65th out of 450 finishers overall on a beautiful morning in the Outer Banks.  Always a fun event, you can check out my review of the Sandbar 5K right here.

This morning started early with a 4am wake up, and a slamming of my funny bone during breakfast that led to radiating pain down my right forearm, but the drive to Kitty Hawk provided an opportunity to see a radiant sunrise from the Wright Memorial Bridge that made everything worth it.  WP_20130804_001Race conditions today were perfect, even with the incoming tide making me work a little harder to run through softer sand, in addition to waves and soaked shoes that made my feet heavier than I had anticipated.  The temperature was about 76 degrees, there was sun peaking from behind a cloud cover that meant all 450 of us runners weren’t baking and a cool breeze coming off the water that made running conditions pretty spectacular.  After the race, and removing my sandy and soaked shoes, I put my bare feet in the water and it was surprisingly chilly.  Even with hot feet that felt amazing when they hit the cold water post race, I was glad I decided to wear shoes since some parts of the out and back course were covered with coarse, shell filled sand I wouldn’t want to take a single barefoot step on.  With my iced finisher towel draped around my neck, cooled off feet and a heart rate that had returned to normal, I was very happy with my performance.  After the raceWP_20130804_008, I waited for results and enjoyed a Shock Top before finding I had finished second and would need to hang out a while longer to receive my award.  Raffles preceded the awards ceremony, and although I didn’t win any, they took quite a while.  They took so long, in fact, that before raffles were finished the beer tent was shut down.  Very disappointing.  No beer in hand, I went when called to get my lovely medal before returning to the car and getting on the road home.

I had set a goal of placing in my age group and was glad to achieve it.  I hope to set new PRs this season at each of my race distances: 5K (on pavement), 8K, 10K, 10 Miler and either this half marathon or this one.  Since I’ve been training in the sand for a few months, my legs aren’t as beat up as I expected, so I won’t be resting tomorrow.  I’ll be putting in a 5 mile race pace run and ramping up my long run from 90 to 105 minutes starting this week.  I have five weeks before my next race, the Hampton Bay Days 8K, and am excited to see how much I can improve.

Meredith

WP_20130804_003My medal, the beach and I.

A Dance with Dragons

a dance with dragonsThe fifth volume of George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire is the continuation of his epic fantasy but you won’t notice it tale of Westeros’ Seven Kingdoms and their counterpart, The Free Cities.  Inhabited by murderous siblings, the undead, spies, skinchangers and dragons, Martin’s people and lands deliver a story of betrayal and struggle that does not disappoint.  In the tradition of the first four novels, A Dance with Dragons twists and turns in ways the reader won’t see coming, and doesn’t necessarily want to.

The good ones die and the bad ones win in this world of war, leaving hero and anti-hero intertwined as Martin keeps every character’s head hovering above the proverbial chopping block.  Tyrion’s sense of humor and morbidity far outsize his stature as the bitter dwarf spends the bulk of his story simply trying to survive.  The pompous Queen Cersei is thrown in disgrace from her tower in King’s Landing, mischievous Arya Stark reappears blind in the free city of Braavos, and prince Quentyn Martell chases after his slave freeing, dragon wielding child queen Daenerys Targaryan in Meereen.  While ruling the Night’s Watch, 998th Lord Commander Jon Snow is forced to make difficult decisions about handling the always troublesome Wildlings on the other side of his wall as winter continues on its headlong collision course with the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros.  Religious tension grows around each participant playing the game of thrones as priests and priestesses from each of Martin’s faiths fight for power and the blessing of their own gods.

Told from a myriad of viewpoints, the sheer number of characters can at times become overwhelming, and ensures good use of the who’s who, Houses Great and Small, appendix.  This entry into A Song of Ice and Fire starts to bring the bloody autumn in Westeros to a close and finds characters crossing paths in a crescendo towards book six, The Winds of Winter.  The driving forces behind A Dance with Dragons, Westeros’ impending winter and the struggle of many characters to reach Queen Daenerys in Meereen, could do without some of the points of view.  A bit more time spent with Kevan Lannister in King’s Landing would have been welcome and with the surprise reappearance of the spider Varys in the final pages, I wonder what I missed while watching Tyrion traverse oceans and following Theon Greyjoy as he is beaten across Westeros.

Though lengthy at 958 pages and bulky in the hardcover edition, the quality of Martin’s literature is undeniable and his prowess as a wordsmith mirrors that of Daario Naharis’ sword play.  In creating a world of incredible depth, characters to match and a world where sometimes up is down and down is up, Martin has hidden a fantasy land in the cover of a novel about kings and pawns.  Not a light read, I’d pick something else for the beach, but a rainy day calls for just what Martin has written.  Each of tome of the series is excellently crafted in Martin’s distinct hand and A Dance with Dragons is just as good the first four.  I’ll eagerly await delivery of The Winds of Winter and look forward to seeing what HBO does for the next season of its Game of Thrones franchise.

Beach It

Saturday dawned a gorgeous day and not even a nagging headache could make me want to stay inside.  A short morning run in the sand and Boot Camp were both breezy and cool with a typically beautiful sunrise to match the weather that came with The Great Cool Down.  After a Saturday afternoon nap that managed to clear out my nagging three day old headache and a few very exciting loads of laundry, it was off to a lovely dinner at Rudee’s on the Inlet (I review it here) and a few games of darts in the garage before heading to bed in preparation for a big beach morning.  It wasn’t, and isn’t, very sunny today, likely due to the predicted rain this afternoon, but the clouds kept the crowds away and I was able to accomplish my goal of finishing A Dance with Dragons with only the sound of waves to distract me.

Checking the last page of A Dance with Dragons off my list was the icing on the ‘get stuff done’ list, as a great week of workouts finished up yesterday with three miles in the sand as a final prep in the sand for next Sunday’s Fall 2013 season opener, the Sandbar 5K.  Recently, all of my training in the sand has been barefoot, but as I mentioned last week, I plan to race shod in a pair of old runners.  I wanted to get back into shoes for a training run because I know how much my stride changed when I took them off and could only assume it would change again with them back on.  It did.  My pace increased in the packed sand and the deep stuff was slightly easier to navigate, so I’m happy I’ve decided to race with my rubber soled friends.  This first race week of the Fall season will feature interval speed work, two short, hard runs at 2 and 4 miles, one day of strength training and only one day of rest before the race.  Before a half marathon, I finish running three days before the race and take two days to let my muscles recover before running 13.1 hard miles, but for a short run like the Sandbar, I should be alright with just one.  If I don’t feel good about the race afterwards, I’ll have to sit back and figure out why, then chalk it up to the learning curve.

Something I definitely feel good about, however, is finishing A Dance with Dragons.  Regrettably, closing the cover of it has left me yearning for the sixth tome of George R.R. Martin’s epic to hit his publisher’s desk, but it sounds like it might be a while.  I’ve made mention of the book along the way, but now that it’s all wrapped up, my official review is here.  Next on the shelf is Bruce Cameron’s A Dog’s Purpose, a best seller told from a dog’s eye view of the world.  Like Marley and Me and The Art of Racing in the Rain, I expect a few tearful moments but an overall delightful story.

Now it’s on to Race Week and work to finish prepping for the launch of FitNicePT’s newest program, the Virginia Beach Mother Runners, on August 1st.  The next seven days look to be fairly exciting, and I’m ready to get Fall 2013 under way!

Meredith