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It’s Really Easy to Write A Book. It’s really hard to write a book.

I’ve worked on and off on material for a book on running. I’m generally not a fan of writing a book to write a book. I decided to write one knowing I have and follow a unique approach to running that others don’t teach, and that can serve runners in ways that other approaches do not or cannot. So I know I can write a book of value.

Before life changed and got crazy this year, I intended to finish at least the raw manuscript this year. Alas, I ran into pressing work and life needs that became more important than pounding out pages. Work on the book frequently got pushed aside during the past few months. Only in this past month did I seriously resume work on the project. I still plan to finish a manuscript, but probably more like early next year than before the end of this year.

Nowadays, technically, it’s actually very easy to publish a book. Gone are the days you had to submit a product to a publisher and hope they gave you a chance. Now, literally everyone with internet access can publish a book direct. Once you complete a manuscript and design a cover, you can e-publish the book on Amazon or other channels right now. You could even host a PDF of the book directly on a website of your own, and charge whatever you want for it using a paywall. Nowadays, the hard part of writing a book is the writer’s own lack of a work ethic.

… or, as I’ve discovered, finding the time. Writing a book is a deep work task. You can’t multitask, or fit it in while washing the dishes or running other errands. To work on it at any time requires a dedicated focus.

That, more than anything, kept me from working on the book. I know my subject matter. Even given the vast scope of the topic, I can at least write on everything (leaving editing and revision to sort it out later). The only writer’s block I had was other pressing matters: Moving out of Chicago, sorting out a change in career, the logistics of all of the above, not to mention any training I’ve needed to do and maintain.

Only now, with more time on my hands in Las Vegas, do I see the importance of available time and bandwidth in writing a book. As long as you have consistent writing habits, the actual process of writing the book should be the easy part.

So, you’re probably asking… what IS the book that I’m writing?

Well, let me actually write it first!

Quick update: Moved on, returned home

I’m going to drift off topic for a bit and discuss my work situation, which I abruptly ended last week.

I took a traveling position in August, and traveled to Michigan for my first assignment. As challenging as it made running and working out, I was reportedly doing good work, and I felt okay about the situation… until everything came to a head during last week. By last Wednesday night I was convinced that I could not continue. After a few conversations, I resigned at the end of the week and returned home to Vegas. It was purely my decision. It’s for the best.

So I’m home. More below the jump:

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Bulking up in Vegas

After a somewhat surprising three weeks in Vegas (my employer and I expected to deploy me sooner, but fate intervened)… I fly out tomorrow on assignment to Michigan for a few weeks.

Much of the last three weeks were spent waiting for the other shoe to drop, so I didn’t really settle into a desired routine, knowing it would be completely disrupted once I was deployed.

Instead, I ended up inadvertently settling into a “routine” of eating a lot of good home cooked food, and sitting around when not at the gym cross training or outside at 6am for a hot desert, brief-out-of-necessity run.

I gained a somewhat astonishing 10 pounds. Granted, the stress of my move led to losing a few pounds right before I left Chicago, so I had some weight to gain back. But I rocketed past my previous 167-168 pound baseline within days, and spent much of my Vegas time in the 173-174 pound range. This despite a couple hours in the gym doing various moderate aerobic cross training and strength exercises most days of the week.

I imagine some of this is water weight from the new food, plus restocked muscle and glycogen lost during the Chicago move. But calorie wise it hasn’t been all that different from living in Chicago. But consider the dramatic (expected) shift in my lifestyle once I arrived in Vegas:

In Chicago (according to my Fitbit data) I averaged anywhere from 650-900 minutes per week of tracked physical activity (anything from 10+ minutes of walking on up), plus about 3000-3500 calories burned per day. Rarely did I finish a day having burned fewer than 3000 calories. Often I burned in excess of 3400-3500.

In Vegas I’ve averaged 500-550 minutes of trackable exercise activity per week, and maybe 2600-2700 calories burned per day. I’ve had perhaps 3 days total where I burned more than 3000 calories since arriving on August 26. That’s a substantial drop in burned calories.

The difference as expected was the amount of walking. Chicago required no less than several minutes of walking to get basically anywhere. In Vegas, you need to drive doorstep to doorstep since very little of the city is walkable in general, not just from sprawl but the extreme summer heat.

I’ve technically exercised more here in Vegas than I did in Chicago. The big difference that produced my weight gain has been the vastly diminished everyday activity.


I’m not terribly worried about losing the weight back. Once I’m on the ground in Michigan, have to walk facility floors for work everyday, and get more chances to run (the Michigan suburbs have decent sidewalks, plus the warm humidity, is far better for daytime running than the extremely hot Vegas desert)… my excess fat and water weight should peel right off. Plus, without home cooking, I’ll regain full control of my diet and be eating cleaner.

Was it okay to bulk up like that? Of course. Especially considering that the summer basically became my offseason. I’ve decided I prefer winter and spring running, and my primary goal race for 2020 is at the end of spring anyway. It wasn’t imperative that I begin training before January. I’ve remained however active I could.

The key is that I restored some lost glycogen and muscle mass. The latter is very important as you age, and having trained as a runner regularly for the last few years I haven’t really given my muscles a chance to regain much lost mass. This was probably the first serious chance I’ve had to do so. Plus I’ve gotten to do more strength training than I could in Chicago: Along with more available time, the gyms in Vegas are bigger and strength machines aren’t busy all the time as they were in Chicago.

Even though I haven’t run as much, I’ve maintained much of my aerobic conditioning with several hours of easy to moderate cross training each week, using not just the ARC Trainer but the new gym’s rowing machines, plus Joe LoGalbo’s Anabolic aerobic approach on the spin bike to get more bang for the buck out of the typically too-easy stationary bike. Occasionally, I’ve used the treadmill, though since the recent hamstring injury I’ve been careful about doing that too much.

So, I’m looking forward to not just the new job assignment but a chance to run regularly in a new place. More to come on that.

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Checking in from Las Vegas

Hello from Las Vegas.

I’m here for at least another week while my company finalizes arrangements with my next assignment, which will fortunately be a few hours from home instead of half a country away. I imagine latter assignments will come in time, but having the first one close enough to spend a weekend or two back in Vegas is nice.

The drive technically took two full days, with a day long break in Denver/Boulder. Colorado to Vegas took a lot less time than I expected and I arrived a day early.

I considered running during the road trip, but everything else ultimately made it impractical. Having my entire life either in my car or a hotel room also limited my bandwidth for running. I did sneak into the hotel fitness room and use the spin bike for a bit. I did also hike with my friend Sam in Eldorado Canyon, and walked quite a bit through Downtown Denver while in town.

The 105+ degree daytime heat limits my options in the short run. Like virtually everyone else in Vegas, I need to run early in the morning if I want to run outside at all. The good news is (thanks in part to time zone shifts) getting up before 6am is really easy for me, and I’ve been able to run at 6am several mornings. Of course, the sun builds heat quickly, and temps exceed 85 degrees by 7am. The one extended run I’ve taken got pretty difficult towards the end. So I may need to keep runs short until the temps drop in fall, or I get out of town to somewhere cooler.

I also have black card access to the Planet Fitness near my home, and they have a lot more resources and space than my previous Chicago gym, plus the lack of humidity means the air conditioning there works a lot better. I’m not visiting everyday like I did in Chicago, but I’ve gone for some strength and cross training work a couple times.

have a bit more time to settle than I expected, and it’s nice after weeks of near-constant work to pack and sort out for my move to not have that constant pressure hanging over anymore. Yes, I’m about to hit the road and that will change everything all over again. But at least I won’t be carrying my entire life with me or need to sort all that out before traveling. Packing lighter will make re-figuring things out a lot easier. It’s in a way a good thing I had to go through all that this past couple months, because everything going forward will seem a lot easier in comparison.

Until things cool down (in more ways than one), the only running goal I have for now is to resume a normal, consistent training schedule and aim for adding a speed workout and a longer run back to that schedule. I don’t have a race planned before the next Vancouver Marathon next May, and so I have no pressing need to seriously train before January.

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Currently quiet here, and definitely not quiet in the rest of my life

For what I hope are understandable reasons, it’s been more quiet here than usual. Let me go into the various details:

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Life changes, and then it changes again

Last month I announced that I’m moving from Chicago back to Las Vegas at the end of August. I talked at length about the changes, benefits and challenges of moving from a runner-friendly city back to a suburban-style desert.

Well, looks like Life’s relief pitcher threw me yet another curveball, though this is a hanging one that I can smack into the outfield.

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Exodus.

It turns out I will not be running the 2019 Chicago Marathon, because I will not be living in Chicago any more! After 4.5 years in Chicago, I am moving away in August to live with family in Las Vegas. A combination of brewing circumstances have now forced my hand.

I’ve been financially treading water, and my family in Las Vegas has always left the door open to come live with them at a low overhead. My sisters and parents each have a spare room I could live in. Plus, most importantly, a number of key family events in Vegas would have required me to fly in several times at cost over the next year, which made staying in Chicago financially unworkable.

With my apartment lease expiring at the end of August, with the new 2020 Illinois budget having raised various personal costs, with growing unrest in the city itself, and with no remaining serious personal ties to the city outside of my current day job… the time was right to cut the cord anyway.

Now is a good time to go and recharge a bit, while spending quality time with a family I haven’t seen more than twice a year over the last several years.

I don’t want to leave my job (I asked about continuing to work remotely, and that’s a possibility with some breaks), and I am despite all the city’s difficulties sad to finally leave Chicago.

But along with the time being right to go, there’s a lot of opportunity to the move.

– I mentioned the financial side, and the chance to spend a lot more time with family.
– Because the overhead is a lot lower, it’s not as big a deal to take a lesser salary at a new role if needed (plus Nevada has no income tax!), opening up my work options quite a bit.
– I would have had to fly in three times over the next year for holidays and upcoming family events. Now that I’d be right there, there’s no need to pay for airfare or take time off from work.
– While Vegas summers are brutal, the winters are of course super mild and great for running. Temps average around 50°F (10°C) and the weather is rarely anything other than sunny and clear. And of course, because it’s a desert, the air is super dry so humidity doesn’t ever complicate the conditions.
– Because of the mild winter conditions, training for Vancouver becomes a lot easier because I can run outdoors with no trouble pretty much every day (though now I just need to remember to use the sunscreen a lot more often).
– Flying to the PNW becomes cheaper and a lot less complicated from Las Vegas than from Chicago. I also have a lot more direct options than I did in Chicago. Vancouver in particular becomes a much easier flight to book.
– While Vegas has its crime and share of local unrest… I’d still be harassed much, much less than I am in Chicago every day, especially where my family lives along the more remote edge of town.
– Since I won’t live in a tiny studio apartment anymore, I actually will have kitchen counter space, which opens up my food prep options. Plus my family will have additional cooking supplies I don’t have. I’ll also have an in-unit washer and dryer to use for laundry, which makes doing that cheaper and a lot easier (currently I’m washing $10 in large loads every couple weeks).
– And, of course, since I’ll be near my family all the time, we’ll be able to do more stuff together more often.

Sure, there are tradeoffs.

– I’ll no longer walk to get everywhere, so my day to day natural physical activity will go down. Every run will require a conscious effort and time set aside. Even going for a simple walk to get some air won’t be as easy, as Vegas is not a particularly walkable city even aside from the heat.
– From mid-spring to fall, it’s unworkably hot outside (as I write this it’s 100°F (38°C), and that’s mild compared to typical 110°F (43°C) summer temps). Outdoor runs longer than a few miles and outside the early morning hours will be impossible. I’ll have treadmills available, but any run longer than a few miles will be very tough to do from March to October.
– Having to drive everywhere, I’ll spend far more money on auto fuel. Auto insurance will be a lot more expensive. While I won’t pay much for rent and utilities, I’ll pay a lot more to get around.
– Going to the store to get food will be more of a chore because I have to drive. Plus, since I’m sharing space with family and they of course have their own food, food storage space will be limited. I can’t buy a ton of meat and produce and expect to store it. I have to plan ahead more for food. They will have food available, sure, but our diets are different.

In any case, this is a move I can make now but might not be able to make later. Also, if I were to stay in Chicago and suffer any setbacks during the next year, it would be a lot harder to overcome. Plus, of course, I mentioned all the travel I’d have to do this next year to Vegas, and it makes far more sense to just be in Vegas full time instead. This is along with everything else about breaking a cycle and putting myself in a better position for the years to come.

But, because of that, it changes my racing plans for the rest of the year. It makes no sense to train for a marathon amidst such a big transition. I was looking training-wise to step back for a little while and train for shorter distances… and this now presents a good extended opportunity to do that before training for Vancouver 2020.

As for now, I hit the brakes on training for Chicago, right as I was starting. Not necessarily a bad thing!

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Headwinds are a training blessing in disguise

agriculture alternative energy clouds countryside

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

I’ve spent a busy April mostly off the grid. I am running the Vancouver Marathon in 8 days. Since muscle damage takes about 14 days to fully repair and quality training’s benefits take about 10 days to manifest in your running, I am done with high volume quality training or any tough workouts. Now it’s about maintaining conditioning and resting up for the marathon.

After getting sick a few weeks ago I had to abbreviate peak training, and I ran a final 17 mile peak run last weekend. The 20 miler I ran in mid-March would be my only one this training cycle, and the 40-45 mile weeks I had that month would be as high as my volume would get.

So, that final long run. Due to weather forecasts and other needs, I had to run it on a Friday right after work. Even though it was the best possible weather of any time I could run that weekend, I had to do most of the run into a stiff 25-30 mph headwind.

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The information runners want

brown book page

Photo by Wendy van Zyl on Pexels.com

I don’t like to get meta too often about content and traffic but, looking at the visit and view history of my running posts, I notice there are key subjects that consistently get attention.

Food and diet: Regardless of whether or not readers are into running, they ARE into reading about diet and nutrition. And that makes sense. Regardless of whether or not you run, nutrition is important to the existence of literally anyone whether they care about it or not. These posts far and away get the most consistent attention of anything I write.

The Yasso 800’s: I did a couple of write-ups on the apparently famous Yasso 800’s marathon predictor workout, and the one search term I repeatedly see leading people to my writing is or includes the term “Yasso 800’s”. I’ve said my piece on the workout’s value and limitations, but people remain very interested in learning about the workout.

Race strategies: Another set of search terms that draw people here involve my race strategy posts. There’s ad-infinitum material on how to train for races of all distances, but not a lot of info on how exactly to run those races once you get to the chute. A few running minds have given the topic more than generalized lip service. But most seem to save crucial info for the elite athletes they actually train, and those approaches might not be appropriate for most regular runners anyway. There’s certainly more detail I could go into later on race running strategies, but I’m glad for any use readers get out of what I’ve written to date.

Climate: I get a lot of hits on the few posts I’ve made regarding running temperature and weather. I realize it’s a topic that doesn’t get a lot of attention from running minds, even though it’s a very important (and clearly underrated) factor to how a run, a race, a workout goes. Right now I’m getting a lot of search hits for cold weather running, obviously. People want more info than just what to wear, or advice to hit the treadmill.

All of this is just to say that clearly these are the subjects people want information and help with, and these are probably good subjects to cover more often going forward.

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No Tour De Trails 6 Miler

I have decided not to run the Tour De Trails 6 Miler due to not just the snow but the high winds (and the resulting potentially dangerous windchills) forecast for Northern Illinois this weekend, not to mention the complications of driving 90 miles each way in those conditions, plus the projected parking problems at Atwood Park. That’s just too much for what the conditions would basically turn into a glorified training run.

Plus, I’m scheduled to run the F3 Lake Half Marathon next weekend in Chicago, and that’s a goal race. It’s probably best to take it easy through the weekend and load up for that… even given the forecasted conditions for that race are also quite icy and windy.

Preworkout is probably just another (not so) cheap stimulant

This is admittedly geared more towards people who lift weights at the gym than anyone who runs. I’d be surprised if anyone who trains as a distance runner uses this.

One increasingly popular supplement to gym workouts is the use of preworkout, a mix of stimulants that’s supposed to “prime” you for your workout.

Yeah, okay. We’ve had this for decades. We just called it caffeine.

Of course, preworkout is a mix of a wider variety of chemicals. But that’s literally all it is: A stimulant. And for many lifters and fitness enthusiasts, it’s mostly unnecessary. And on top of it, the stuff costs a lot of money.

I won’t go as far as to call preworkout a placebo, because it’s full of enough chemical stimulants to definitely not be a placebo. But it’s not the reason people lack the drive to work out.

As a runner who has to put in dozens of miles a week after work from a full time job, I realize as well as anyone that it’s hard most days to find the energy and drive to get a workout done. I realize a lot of people go workout early in the morning and it’s hard to shake off the cobwebs of sleep to get the workout in.

People who take preworkout believe that the kick it gives them is absolutely necessary to get them to function in the gym. And as a coffee drinker, far be it from me to tell people to not do stimulants in the morning, ever.

But ultimately the stimulants are in some effect a placebo for the motivation you need to work out. They are in effect a crutch. Pushing a barbell does not become impossible or even substantially more difficult if you don’t take preworkout. Nor does pumping yourself full of stimulants make the task substantially easier… even if it does give you a lot more energy to throw at it.

As I’ve said before, your motivation to work out comes from your habits. You form habits and follow the groove those habits cut into your everyday life. That, rather than anything you take or are given, is what drives most of your “motivation”.

Uppers or not, it’s ultimately up to you to decide to do the work, and then actually do it. The money spent on preworkout might be better spent elsewhere, while you look a little more at your habits to motivate your training.

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Losing fat, losing weight, begins with knowing your eating habits

One of the reasons most dieting fails is because people lack a healthy, sustainable diet baseline. Of course, a big part of that is people not having any idea what their baseline is to begin with… if they even have one.

This is also a key reason modern people insidiously gain weight over time. Their metabolism slowing with age and decreased activity certainly doesn’t help. But a lack of consistency and healthy eating habits is the larger contributor.

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Batch and Portal: An effective time-saving way to address questions in the workplace

I’m gonna head a bit off topic from running to address communication in a workplace.

We underestimate the importance of flow at work, as well as the negative effect of interruptions. Many jobs are built around the response to interruptions (e.g. retail, call center work, law enforcement, etc). But in many white collar jobs they usually aren’t necessary and most can be avoided.

Let’s never mind larger fundamental topics like open floor plans, open door policies, and other debatable topics. I want to toss out a better method of asking for assistance on non-time-sensitive requests or questions that anyone is welcome to use.

Again, I preface this by pointing out this is for non-emergency, non-time-sensitive items. Obviously, if the building is on fire, if someone needs an answer right this moment, if helping a customer, guest or VIP who needs help now depends on an answer to this request… interrupt whoever you need to as soon as possible.

For every other question or request, when it comes to dealing with someone you need to speak with a lot for these items… do what I call Batch and Portal.

Batch: Instead of interrupting every time you have a question or request, write each one down, and then bring them to the person every so often, whether that’s once an hour, once every few hours, twice a day, etc. By interrupting the person once with a set of requests, it saves them time, allows them to better focus, and does the same for you as well.

Portal: There are probably certain times of the day that are better than others to approach this person. We’re typically talking about a supervisor or a specialist with these instances, and they’ve got a lot of meetings, projects and other items on their plate.

Presuming you have access to their schedule or generally know their schedule, you can figure out which times of day are best to approach this person, when you know they will have time to address your needs. It sucks to batch questions, and then find out once you go to them that they’re in a meeting or otherwise don’t have time right now. Planning ahead allows you to get the info you need when you go to get it.

If in doubt, you can also directly inquire. Call/email/DM/etc and ask for a good time to come to them with questions etc. This allows both of you to plan ahead. And, of course, perhaps there’s a chance they’re free and can help you right away… but if not then that gives you both a chance to plan ahead.

If you have doubts, rebuttals, caveats about Batch and Portal… no need to fire back and share those. If this idea doesn’t work for you, you’re free not to use it.

But it’s worked well for me, for others who have applied it, and can work for you as well.

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Training ambitions, and the unexpected prime obstacle to meeting them

Given I currently have some extra time on my hands, I’m reviewing my upcoming schedule in preparation for winter training. I want to work towards 60-70 miles a week this next training cycle, which may sound scary to the uninitiated until I mention that I was topping 50 miles per week without much trouble during Chicago Marathon training.

While I’m open to staying with a training load around 40-50 miles per week, I do want to stretch out and give 60+ a shot by extending my weekday runs, making sure I go 120-150 minutes on Saturday long runs, and mixing in some brief morning or lunchtime weekday runs in addition to my typical postwork runs. If it turns out to be too physically demanding, I can always scale back to a more regular workload, but for all sorts of reasons I’ll get into someday I believe I can now handle the larger workload.

That said, the biggest obstacle to running more miles isn’t whether my body can handle it, or even the wear on my shoes (my budget is tighter than it was a year ago, but I can always buy another 1-2 pairs of training shoes if I need it).

The problem is whether or not I can eat enough to compensate for all the extra calories I would burn.

I’m looking to get my diet super clean going into this next training cycle, as well as make it more affordable and simplified. An optimal diet that served all of the above only fed me about 2400 calories. That is well and good for weight loss, if I’m not running more than a couple miles every day. I would obviously be running much more than a couple miles per day.

Again, every mile I walk or run burns about 125 calories. I have actually been walking more the last few days, and have hit 3000 calories burned the last couple days despite no running. It’s fairly easy for me to burn calories when I’m active, and during my 30ish miles per week training days I would easily burn 3300-3500 calories.

If I’m running closer to 9 miles per day, that’s an extra 600-650 calories per day I’d burn, and even if I make the extra effort to take it easy in the rest of my life, I’ll easily burn 3500-3600 calories per day.

Okay, you may say… you’re looking to cut fat anyway, and this would be a great opportunity to shed some more of it, right? What’s the harm?

One of the reasons you don’t want to run a huge calorie deficit is the risk of muscle wasting. While it’s in general considered a cardio exercise, running requires substantial lower body strength, and along with depleting glycogen stores you break down lower body muscle. Proper nutrition allows you to rebuild those damaged muscles as well as restore your glycogen stores.

You’re already playing with fire when you run a calorie deficit, and being able to do so safely during training requires some mindful planning and execution. Even then, you should not run a deficit of greater than 500 calories a day. If I’m going to burn 3500 calories a day, I need to take in about 3000 calories to prevent myself from burning out or getting hurt.

And I probably should not take in as much fat as I have. I’m not looking to go low-fat with my diet revisions, because again the body absolutely needs dietary fat. But I do want to work on staying within 80-85g of fat per day, which means the answer to my dilemma is not as simple as committing to pounding a frozen pizza every day.

And as much as I’d like to go paleo or similar, I don’t want to compromise my performance or development by avoiding carbs and the needed glycogen.

Okay, so just eat a bunch of carbohydrates, right? Well, easy to say sure, since I’m going to burn them every day.

But there’s only so many carbs I can stomach. Most healthy carb-rich foods can be very dense and contain a lot of insoluble fiber. I found during my “sure, I’ll carb load” diet phases in previous years that the most carbs I could handle in a day is about 400-500g. And I could only hit that mark now and again: On a daily basis I can’t consistently consume more than 350g of carbohydrate.

Right now I’m eating about 300-400 calories of potatoes with dinner. I can probably handle about 3-4 bananas at most, and eating all of the above means taking in an uncomfortably large amount of insoluble fiber. Either way, I don’t think I can stomach much more than that.

Plus, your stomach can only process so many nutrients before just passing the rest or storing the difference as fat. Carbs do get stored as fat once the window closes on your body’s absorption capabilities. So eating a ton of carbs isn’t really an easy solution.


So, looking at my diet, after factoring in the foods I do and can consistently eat… I realized I had a deficit of about 600 calories if I want to train at a higher volume. How to cover it?

One answer is to swap out potatoes (at least on some days) with semolina-based pasta. I mentioned fusilli as a pasta of choice, though organic elbow macaroni is an option as well thanks to its density. Both provide more carbs in a meal (as many as 60g extra, plus some extra protein) than potatoes do overall.

However, potatoes provide a ton of potassium that pasta does not. It can be possible to supplement the traditional way: By making pasta with marinara sauce. I eat my pasta plain with salt, broth and coconut oil for seasoning. But a cup of marinara sauce adds about 800mg of potassium, which would cover most of the gap.

While it’s not totally my cup of tea, I’m not opposed to quickly heating a cup of marinara or similar pasta sauce and dumping that onto the pasta for dinner with my chicken. And, while not as much, pasta sauce also comes with a few extra carbohydrates.

I also find that sometimes at work I need an afternoon snack. If I commit to quick-prep oatmeal, that can provide some extra carbohydrate on key days.


All of these options of course have a common problem: They’re processed foods. And while inexpensive, it gets away from the whole food philosophy I’ve been working to follow and maintain with my diet. I wouldn’t want to eat these items exclusively, let alone every day.

None of this is to say I’ve found the solution. These are mostly just the options I’m considering ahead of 2019. The good news is I don’t have to find an answer now. Go-Time for this plan would be about 2.5 months down the road.

But it does present an interesting dilemma: If you want to train high-mileage, how do you make sure you get enough energy to eat to maintain that workload?

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What do I eat when I eat “junk” or processed food? A long primer on my favorite processed and “junk” food

So I always mention that while I eat clean most of the time, I do eat processed food about 20% of the time, and often I exercise some judgment (as well as obviously taste) in what I eat that 20% of the time.

Selected frozen pizzas

Despite living in arguably the pizza capital of the world, I don’t go or order out for pizza that much. First of all, that can get expensive in a hurry, there are just as many local varieties of frozen Chicago pizza in stores, and you can often get far more pizza for your buck when you buy it frozen at the store.

Usually, I try and get a pie totaling about 1200-1500 calories, something I can eat in one sitting when I need a huge protein/carb/fat boost. Most mainstream store varieties are TOO calorie dense, and taste a little too chemically plasticine for my liking. The one mainstream variety I’m still down with is the relatively light Newman’s Own, though availability is come and go in Chicago.

Here in Chicago, I usually go with Eastside Cafe, whose protein-rich local ingredients and thin crust make it far superior to everything else on the shelf. Whole Foods generally carries it in spades (I usually get cheese or sausage given that’s available on the shelf), though Eastside distributes locally in Warrenville on the far west side of Chicagoland if anyone in town is willing to make a road trip and take their pick. (Someday on a free weekday I’ll make the trip so I can finally try their pepperoni pizza)

Other local Chicago varieties I like are Screamin Sicilian (known for overloading their mid-thick pies with toppings) and Reggios (the latter of which originated as a restaurant that still runs today). Home Run Inn and Connie’s are okay (those two also run local restaurants: A Home Run Inn location is about 15 minutes from my apartment), though HRI is a little plasticine, and Connie’s frozen pizzas have a bunch of random fragments that tend to get everywhere.

The key with picking these pizzas is that they are protein rich, not TOO calorie rich, and made largely with fresh local ingredients (even if they are processed with some variety of manufactured chemicals). When I need a protein bomb on a protein-weak day, or I’m a bit too gassed to cook a meal, they are a solid fallback option.

Fairlife Reduced Fat Lactose Free Chocolate Milk

I’m not totally lactose intolerant, but my body has a shallow stop-loss when it comes to milk consumption. It’s hit and miss whether a decent quantity of milk or ice cream will send me to the crapper like a hockey player serving time in the penalty box for slashing.

This variety of Fairlife’s chocolate milk removes the lactose, eliminating that risk, and allowing me an easy opportunity to pound a taste-friendly 19 grams of protein in a 12 oz glass, or a single serve 11.5 oz bottle.

Sadly, Treasure Island Foods’ demise means I no longer have an easy go-to spot to get this, and I’ll need to find a new place to get it. But it makes for a great post-workout drink, a poor man’s protein shake… as well as a great dessert option, or even an overnight appetite-cover if hunger wakes me up during the night.

I’m not into drinking it everyday since it is flavored, processed milk. But you could do far worse with regards to chocolate milk, and it’s not as expensive as protein shakes.

English Muffin Breakfast Sandwiches

I do not discriminate much when it comes to breakfast sandwiches. If you can slap meat, eggs and cheese between two toasted english muffins, I will probably want to eat it for breakfast.

I tend to avoid breakfast these days because I value intermittent fasting, but sometimes I will pound a breakfast sandwich to start the day, often while recovering from a hard workout or when I know I’ve got a tough day ahead and will need the extra nutrition.

Starbucks’ sausage sandwiches tend to be okay but reliable, though they’re more plasticine than most sandwiches. Here in Chicago, I’ve become partial to Mariano’s Vero cafes’ sausage (Buon Giorno) sandwiches lately. Local Eva’s Cafe in Old Town makes a great sandwich, and the nearby Lakeview Rewired cafe in my neighborhood makes a great sandwich on ciabatta-style bread.

Evolve and Orgain protein shakes

When I do spend an excessive amount of money on ready-made protein shakes, my shakes of choice are Evolve and Orgain, both sold at Whole Foods. Orgain is loaded with vitamins and goes down relatively easy. Evolve is more fiber and protein rich, though lighter in calories (which may or may not be a problem depending on my needs that day).

I get the vanilla varieties of either one. But at $3+tax a pop, I don’t drink them regularly.

Epic Sea Salt Pork Rinds

These are also expensive at $4+tax, but each bag of these pork rinds contains about 40g of protein, and they are hearty pork rinds without the annoying thick patches of random hardened skin that most varieties of pork rinds provide you. This is another snack food I’ll pound when I want a protein boost, and the bag is usually done right after I open it.

Kettle Style Potato Chips

I’m a sucker for kettle style potato chips, and I’ll usually try to get varieties cooked in avocado, sunflower, coconut, etc oil rather than vegetable or canola oil. Because if I’m going to eat awful junk food as a snack, it had better at least be cooked in some healthy oil, right?

I’m partial to the salted-no-flavor varieties of Kettle brand chips and Boulder Canyon avocado oil chips.

365 brand veggie chips

If I’m going to delude myself into believing that veggie chips are a better snack for me than potato chips, I’ll get the Whole Foods 365 brand, because those tend to be plainer and cleaner than other varieties, plus the bag is not as big… making the act of housing the whole bag in one sitting slightly less regrettable.

Fresh old fashioned chocolate glazed donuts

They don’t make donuts like they used to. The average hipster donut place makes the bread more like cake, and they put nonsense like bacon on top of it. If I want bacon I’ll just get an actual sit-down breakfast at a diner.

When I want an honest to goodness old fashioned made from scratch chocolate glazed donut, it’s hard to find great places that serve one anywhere. In Chicago, I will vouch for Firecakes in Lincoln Park. The only other place I’ve recently found great old fashioned donuts is Lee’s, a stand in the Granville Island Market in Vancouver BC Canada.

I am also amenable to maple glazed donuts and (when in the right mood) plain sugar glazed donuts. But generally, if I can’t get a chocolate glazed donut I just won’t bother. I don’t do sprinkles or neon colored glaze.

Truffle oil french fries (bonus if cheese sauce is an option)

If you’re a bar that serves a heaping pile of french fries as a dish, I’m generally down if I would like to eat.

The Reservoir in Uptown serves a great version cooked in truffle oil that’s garnished in parmesan. The Res is general is highly recommended if you ever land in Chicago, not just for that but for a vast alcohol selection and some of the nicest people running a bar in Chicago.

The Bar on Buena in Buena Park will serve you a side of home made melted cheese with their fries, which I also like.

But the kings of cheese fries in Chicago are Devil Dawgs, who serve a large bowl-caliber cup of cheese fries done right: They don’t just pour cheese over the top of the fries, but mix in cheese with the fries throughout the cup as they pile them on. When I want a sloppy cup of cheese fries every now and again (with a hot dog, of course!), that’s the place to go for me.

Beef taquitos (rolled tacos)

Why have beef taquitos gone away as a dish? This makes me sad. First of all, Mexican restaurants in Chicago don’t really serve them without charging too much for them. Secondly, stores that used to carry them like Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods have stopped carrying them.

They’re the best kind of rolled tacos! I’ll eat them plain, though I definitely won’t complain if you top them with cheese and guacamole (but I WILL if you top it with sour cream, which I do not like). Chicken doesn’t cut it, and sorry Trader Joe’s but the bean and cheese variety simply isn’t the same.

Fried chicken

I have always been a mark for fried chicken. Even during my chicken allergy phase I’d gladly break off any boycott to eat it.

I’m not as high on the varieties at supermarkets, or breaded chicken tenders. Chicken nuggets are okay, though it does depend on how they’re made. Places like Church’s or Popeye’s are just okay. KFC has cleaned up a bit over the years and now that I can eat their chicken without suffering dysentery I think they’re alright.

Locally, there’s a lot of “wait 20 minutes” boutique joints in Chicago and many cities with shops that’ll gladly serve you “home cooked” fried chicken. They’re okay, but most are probably not worth the premium price or the wait.

Here in Chicagoland, the king for me remains Evanston Chicken Shack in Evanston. I abhor traveling to Evanston but am always willing to make a stopover if given the chance.

In Seattle, I’ll vouch for Ezell’s like many others, but the founder’s spinoff shop Heaven Sent Fried Chicken in Lake City is honestly the king there. If you live in Seattle and like Ezell’s, I encourage you to go to 145th and Lake City Way and try out the original.

If you’re in Portland OR, go to The Screen Door. It’s a sit down meal, it’s a bit pricier and there probably will be a wait, but you probably won’t regret it.

I generally will mark out for a wide variety of local fried chicken. Again, I don’t like to fry food at home, but am more than happy to pay someone else to do the frying. If you drag me to a fried chicken place I will probably be happy with your decision.

Mission style burritos

I was first introduced to big Mission style burritos not by Chipotle, but by Seattle’s famous burrito shop Gordito’s, known for making burritos as big as newborn babies. Fresh, delicious, and if you don’t arrive starving you will probably have to bring some home with you.

Since then, Chipotle has made the big burrito famous, and America has gradually wised up to the fact that Mexican restaurants have been making these burritos for generations. But I had wised up long before this, and have always loved the big Mission style burrito.

Here in Chicago, I fortunately live about five blocks from what I consider the best place to get a carne asada burrito: El Burrito Mexicano, right under the Addison CTA station near Wrigley Field. It’s cash only and it’ll run you $10-12 after tip for a plate. Plus, obviously, avoid going on a Cubs game day because it’ll be stupid-packed. But the massive burrito is chock full of great steak, refried beans, tomatoes and cheese. It’s a total winner, but given I don’t usually carry a ton of cash it’s only an occasional treat for me.

Does sushi count as processed food?

I mean, I guess it does. Seaweed paper has to be processed. Sushi grade rice is as well, as is soy sauce. Even if all the other ingredients are fresh, there’s a lot of processed sodium-rich stuff in sushi, which is another food I love when the price is right.

I’m a mark for Alaskan (salmon avocado) and other salmon rolls, as well as Negi Hamachi Rolls (yellowtail and scallions), and various creative dragon-style combo rolls rich with salmon. If a sushi restaurant offers fried calamari or salmon bits as a side, I am all over that.

Here in Chicago, I don’t have crazy expectations. I like Gorilla Sushi in Lincoln Park because it’s affordable and their offerings are solid. But Chicago’s got quite a few good spots, especially Lakeview. Rollapalooza and Sumo are good Chicago sushi spots.

Seattle’s rising expense has taken away my favorite kaiten spots, so I don’t know what’s good there anymore. In Vancouver BC Canada, Miku Restaurant is the king, a very pricey and upscale joint that is absolutely worth the cost. But Vancouver has a LOT of great, affordable sushi options too numerous to name or visit.

When my dad takes me to his favorite sushi place in Vegas, Sushi Wa, I will pretty much eat anything he shoves in my direction. They make such a wide variety of sushi I wouldn’t otherwise have any idea about 20% of their best stuff.

Sushi is terrific, and if somehow I ended up filthy rich I’d probably eay it way too often.

Ramen

Don’t even get me started on how much I love ramen. Another pricey but terrific food I have to be careful about eating too often.

I’ve dabbled with and enjoyed spots in Chicago and Las Vegas, but nothing I’d fall over to recommend.

In Seattle, Aloha Ramen was easily the best ramen spot, in no small part thanks to their garlic-rich fried rice.

In Vancouver I LOVED Hokkaido Ramen Santouka, which is famous for their excellent pork gyoza but also makes good ramen and backdrops it with terrific friendly service.

I admit I’m still a mark for cheap generic top ramen out of a package, however. Often, given the option and the craving, I’ll just eat that.


I just wrote far too much about food you and I should not be eating that often. As I do after eating any of the above, I regret none of it.

P.S. I also didn’t mention ice cream, which I don’t do much at all anymore, but I remain partial to Ben and Jerry’s Peanut Butter Cup, and Häagen-Dazs Caramel Cone.

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Another day of brief post-marathon notes, on a sleepy Thursday evening

I’m honestly ready to start running again, but two weeks off is two weeks off. I had a plan and I’m sticking to it. No running… not even any kind of working out. I’m giving myself a full two weeks to rebuild and recover as much as possible.

I’m going ahead and pigging out a bit on the stuff I like, potato chips and pizza and such. I’m still eating mostly clean, though I’m definitely not logging enough activity to burn off the excess. But this week I’m willing to take on some water.

Occasionally I feel a bit of lower body stiffness here and there, but otherwise I feel good. I can jog across streets with no problem.

The weather in Chicago has taken a turn for the cold, with temps dropping to the 40’s Fahrenheit today, possibly to the low 30’s tonight. I keep all my winter gear packed in a big duffel bag, and it looks like it’s finally time to begin unloading it. Time to acclimate!

I know my run-training plans for January and beyond, and I’ll get into those later. But I’m still hashing out how I’m going to train for the rest of this year. I definitely plan to strength train during November, and will definitely taper any running during the December holidays. But I’m not yet sure how much running I’m going to get back to doing in the short run. I don’t foresee running a race before next year, and this section of training would be lighter and a little less formal.

I got several topics I want to write about this weekend, and one will probably be preferences for when I do eat processed or junk food. Perhaps tomorrow! I don’t just eat any random junk. There are some things I won’t ever touch, and there are some items of preference that can be somewhat healthy and keep you on track. Soon.

That is all. I plan to turn in early and catch up on sleep. Until tomorrow!

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