Friday, November 27, 2009

Thanksgiving calories reviewed

They might call it Black Friday, but at this point, I'd prefer to call it Full Friday.

At present I'm sitting in my pajamas, watching TV and trying to let my stomach recover from the onslaught of Thanksgiving. Going for run is about the furthest thing from my mind at this point. Heck, walking across the street might even be beyond my ambitions at this point.

Like any other Thanksgiving, I indulged a little more than I should've at dinner, with gravy topping everything from mashed pototoes to stuffing and the pumpkin pie tin becoming well-aquainted with the digging of my fork. And since I didn't need to worry about driving anywhere upon arrival to the dinner, alcoholic beverages were also on the menu.

For the sake of entertainment and education, I carried around a pad of paper and a pen for the day and took down the calorie intake of all things consumed. I did this by either looking at the nutritional value on the containers of things I was eating/drinking, or by looking them up on this website. By the time I finished adding everything up, I felt like John Belushi in the cafeteria scene in "Animal House."

Here is how the calorie content for the day breaks down:

  • 1 fiber bar - 140 calories
  • 1 bowl of generic raisin bran cereal - 260 calories (note: the cereal and bar were consumed before I arrived at the actual Thanksgiving dinner)
  • 2 glasses of white zinfandel - 292 calories
  • 2 servings turkey - 660 calories
  • 2 servings ham - 376 calories
  • 3 servings mashed potatoes - 333 calories
  • 3 servings gravy - 300 calories
  • 3 servings stuffing - 330 calories
  • 1 serving fruit gelatin - 243 calories
  • 1 rum and Diet Coke - 80 calories
  • 3 dinner rolls - 270 calories
  • 3 slices of pumpkin pie - 810 calories
  • 4 cans Bud Light - 440 calories
  • 1 slice of apple pie - 400 calories
  • 1 slice of oreo pie - 470 calories
  • 1 serving peanut brittle - 180 calories
  • 1 White Russian - 360 calories
  • 1 margarita - 325 calories

Total calories consumed for the day: 6269. According to the exercise calorie counter I have on my blog, it would take roughly seven hours of biking 14-15.9 mph (around 100 miles of total biking) or a little more than seven hours of running 7 mph (8:34 mile average and more than 40 miles of total running) to burn off the calories.

With that in mind, I think I'm going to go hop on the treadmill for awhile

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Thanksgiving: The day dietary inhibitions flew out the window

Loosen up the ol' belt, grab a dinner plate and don't skimp on the gravy.

Thanksgiving day is upon us, and with it comes generous helpings of turkey, stuffing, casseroles, pumpkin pie and whatever else your heart (and stomach) desire. Add in a side of football and a dash of beer to watch those gridiron contests with, and what you have is a recipe for dietary disaster. According to this article on, an average person will consume around 2,500 calories over the course of Thanksgiving dinner, or roughly the high end of what's considered a healthy daily intake for physically-active adults.

(side note: The article above lists pumpkin pie and mashed potatoes -- two of my more favored Thanksgiving helpings -- as healthy eating options for the nutrition-conscious crowd. Not sure if their nutritional value holds true after the multiple servings I'm sure to indulge in, but there's some good news!)

Granted, you can always say no to second helpings and that extra-large slice of pecan pie for dessert. But in my experience, it's hard to turn down a helping of the dish your aunt spent all day preparing, unless you want to deal with glaring looks from across the dinner table. Besides, there's only so many occasions where you have the opportunity to try such a wide variety of food, albeit foods that have varying degrees of nutritional value.

Consequently, I've already chalked up the day as a loss for any discernible diet I may have been on. I figure a day of indulgence is an acceptable vice, so long as it doesn't send me down the slippery slope of the holiday eating season, where family dinners and cold weather conspire to send health & fitness into hibernation.

As far as the marathon training is concerned, the current version of the Minnesota Timberwolves has a better chance of beating the '96 Chicago Bulls than I have at getting a 10-mile training run in on Friday morning. So I've been mindful to plan ahead for my "Turkey day hangover."

I put in a hard week of running (36 miles) last week, put in a fair amount of time at the gym and ran 16 miles so far this week. I'm also hoping to squeeze in one last workout before driving up to my parent's house for dinner in the morning.

Aside from that, I'm just going to enjoy the holiday, enjoy the company, and most of all, enjoy the food.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Upcoming Mankato Marathon forum and other updates

The Greater Mankato Convention & Visitors Bureau is holding a Mankato Marathon Runners Forum from 6-7:30 p.m. Dec. 1 in the Ellery Room at the Verizon Wireless Center to get ideas and suggestions for the upcoming Greater Mankato Marathon.

According to race director Anna Thill, topics the forum will explore include: Pre-race events (i.e. holding a pasta feed the night before the race), how to set up the starting line on race day, things to have on the race course (i.e. water stations, food stations, etc.), what to have at the finish line of the race (food, massage tables, other accomodations), and other micellaneous topics like posting race photos online and making resutls available to runners.

Thill said the target audience of the forum is runners with marathon experience who can chime with their own experiences and what they liked best about races they've ran in.

For more information, contact Anna Thill at 381-6815

- Update on Eric and Christie Nelson (the couple biking from Mankato to the tip of South America): As of their last SPOT entry Saturday, Eric and Christie are in the Mexican village of Palenque, which is roughly 40 miles west of the Guatemalan border. They're latest blog entry was written on Sunday and recaps their experience of biking in Mexico, with the climate and landscape being far more diverse than anticipated and the locals being much friendlier than they were expecting. They also made a note to apologize to their readership for their lack of entries lately, as Christie recently came down with a stomach sickness and their travel was slowed as a result.

-Grandma's training update: I just completed Week 4 of my training, and thanks to a little bit of weather-induced ambition (is it really the middle of November?), I managed to log 36 miles of running and mixed in a few nice bike rides to go with it. The only setback so far has been getting used to my new pair of running shoes, as the breaking-in period has caused a few blisters to form. Short-term goals are to log as many miles between now and Thanksgiving as possible, because I'm guessing the amount of food consumed at the festive dinner will render my fitness ambitions useless for a few days.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

It's always sunny in ... Minnesota?

Every once in a while, Mother Nature goes and pulls a temperature two-step on us

Fresh off an unseasonably cool summer and one of the harshest Octobers weather-wise in recent memory, temperatures decided to go in the other direction in November. In a month normally reserved for winter coats and scarves, temperatures have hovered in the 40's and 50's for most of the month, with a recent stretch of days being in the 'sunny and 50-something' variety. The weather forecast for the rest of the week bodes for much of the same.

It has actually proven to be a little disorienting for me. Today, I actually broke out my rollerblades for possibly the first time ever this late in the year. Yesterday, I came to the startling conclusion while running that I was actually OVER-dressed for a 40-minute jog. I also had a lot more company than I expected, as the Red Jacket trail was crowded with dog-walkers and bikers like it was the middle of August. Heck, if it gets much warmer, I might have to bike over to Hiniker and work on my tan for a bit.

Granted, there are drawbacks to the weather being this nice so late in the year. For one thing, the ice fishing crowd is probably watching their gear collect dust in the corner of their garage, as my co-worker makes light of in his recent blog post. Although the temperatures at night have been cool enough to cause a freeze, it's unlikely any lakes are forming much for ice at this point. I can also see this making Minnesota winters seem all the more brutal once the inevitable days of -15 temperatures start rolling in.

However, being the outdoor enthusiast that I am, I say put the winter hibernation on hold for awhile and enjoy the weather as much as you can. Take the dog for a walk, put some air in the bike tires, break out the hiking boots, dust off the tennis racquet and dig the baseball glove out of the closet. It doesn't matter what you do, just bask in the warm weather while it lasts.

Because knowing Minnesota, it ain't gonna last for long.

P.S.: If the weather immediately becomes Minnesoata-esque after today, you can blame my blog post for jinxing it.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

A marathon through Mankato

Runners of Mankato rejoice, a marathon is coming to your backyard next fall!

The Greater Mankato Growth Convention and Visitors Bureau announced Thursday that it will be hosting the inaugural Mankato Marathon on Oct. 23 in 2010. Although the marathon is still largely in the planning stages and the race's website is currently under construction, here is what we know so far:

  • The event is scheduled to have full marathon, half marathon and 10K racing options. There will also be an expo, kid's run and pasta feed the night before.
  • The marathon course is still awaiting approval, but the proposed route is to start up at MSU's campus and end down at the City Center. A coworker suggested the course follow the same path as the now-defunct Nature Valley Grand Prix cycling race, which included four trips up Main Street hill to finish the race. For the sake of all runners and medical staff involved, let's hope the course follows a different path.
  • Race coordinators are hoping to draw between 400-500 runners for both the half marathon and full marathon, making it much more quaint than the 10,000 or so that turn out for the Grandma's in Duluth and the Minneapolis Marathon. However, if numbers hold true, it will still be considerably larger than my first marathon, which consisted of 180 runners on a bike trail mostly out in the country. There were points of that race where other runners weren't even within eyesight. Talk about lonely.
  • With the Twin Cities Marathon scheduled to take place Oct. 3, the Mankato race will be the last chance in 2010 for Minnesota runners to try for a qualifying time for Boston Marathon in 2011. Incidentally, the Des Moines Marathon is taking place Oct. 17.

As an avid runner, I couldn't be happier to have a marathon taking place so close to home. Road trips are fun and all, but it's nice to be able to come home to a hot shower and a hearty meal after a grueling race. It's also nice not having to crash on a friend's couch the night before the race.

I also think Mankato is a prime location to host a marathon. Mankato is a beautiful community for a race to run through, and the city's geography (read: hills) offers a welcome challenge to all participants. The city has had a lot of success with its annual triathlon and other smaller races in terms of drawing participants and presenting the community in a positive light; a marathon just seems like the next logical step.

I don't know about anybody else, but I've already got the date circled on my calendar. Whether you're running in the race or just coming out to watch it, it's going to be fun.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Over the river and through the woods, to Grandma's Marathon I go

It's never too early to set a goal for yourself.

Long-term goals are good. In everyday life, they give you a sense of direction and encourage you to dream big. In the realm of health and fitness, they give your exercise and dieting routines more importance because they're all building toward something in the future.

The long-term goal for myself that I bring forth today: To run Grandma's Marathon in Duluth next summer.

(note: Feel free to throw up after reading the previous sentence. I know the fat, lazy couch potato version of me from my youth wants to do so.)

Admittedly, I'm not writing this at the exact starting point of my training. I'm actually in Week 3 of the plan I've drawn up (shooting for 25 miles this week). But be that as it may, I might as well get my goal out in the open early for my more-than-likely small readership to acknowledge.

Also, I must confess that running of a marathon isn't exactly a new concept to me. I ran my first marathon earlier this year in St. Joseph, MN and can still recall the painful recovery from that race all too well. I ran the race to the best of my abilities and came in with a time of 3:38:32, a figure I know by heart because the newspaper clipping of the race results is still hanging in my apartment.

However, unlike my first marathon, which I basically ran with the goal of finishing without dying, my goal for Grandma's is to run fast enough to achieve a qualifying time for Boston Marathon the following spring. For my age group, that would require a time of 3:10:59, which means I would have to improve upon the time of my first marathon by a cool 28 minutes.

Again, feel free to throw up. I think even the fitness-conscious adult in me wants to vomit after reading that.

With a goal as lofty as that, I figured it best to get started early on the running if I want to have a shot at it. I also thought getting into training before the holiday season (and, more importantly, holiday eating season) hits would be in my best interest fitness-wise.

Anyway, here is a rough sketch of the plan I drew up for training:

  • Start small with weekly mileage and try to increase it by roughly 10% each week, with my Week 1 being 21 miles. The 10% figure is a number I got from an article I read in Runner's World magazine. My goal is to have my weekly mileage up in the 50-60 mile range by the end of next spring.
  • Try to get at least one run of 10+ miles in a week, with that mileage gradually working itself up to the 15-20 range.
  • Try to get at least one interval training run in a week to keep my cardiovascular system guessing. This would include workouts like running hills (easy to find in Mankato), Fartlek workouts, or playing pick-up games of soccer, basketball or any other sport that requires sprinting.
  • Stretch for at least 5-10 minutes after each run and try to do the same before each run if there's time. This might also extend to doing yoga on rest days and doing little stretches here and there throughout the day. One thing I learned from the marathon this year: The more limber you are, the less sore you are.
  • Change my eating habits in the hopes of dropping 15-20 pounds by next summer and making things easier on my knees and legs during the run. This would include not eating anything late at night, avoiding fast foods, cutting back on junk food and saying "no" to any pop (or soda, if you want to be all non-Minnesotan about it). The last one might be the hardest to accomplish as Mountain Dew is admittedly a sugary vice of mine.
  • Continue weight training on a regular basis, but scale back the weightlifting so that running becomes the emphasis of workouts. As much as every guy likes having bulging biceps for girls to stare at, the concept of losing weight doesn't really work if you're trying to pack on muscle and look like Vin Diesel. For what I'm trying to accomplish, toning the muscle I have would be the better route.

That's about all I can think of at this point. Feel free to chime in with advice, comments and declarations of my insanity.

Note: Here are some of the training logs I took advice from in formulating my marathon plan/death wish:

Rookie Marathon Plan
Grandma's Intermediate Marathon Training schedule

Sunday, November 8, 2009

The hard goodbye to a favorite pair of running shoes

Call it a case of runner’s denial.

I know I need a new pair of running shoes. I’ve had the same pair of blue and gold Asics since the beginning of May, and have since ran more than 400 miles in them. The soles are worn, the bottoms of the shoes have the traction of a freshly-smoothed ice rink and the shoelaces are tattered to the point of almost being unusable. There’s a good chance there will be holes in the shoe bottoms the size of golf balls if I try to put too many more miles on them.

It’s only a matter of time before I bite the bullet and start making my way through the nearest Athletic Shoe section to pick out my next shoelaced companion. However, part of me isn’t ready to toss out my old, reliable running shoes, even though all conventional signs may point to the contrary. Part of me has a certain degree of sentimental attachment to those worn-out heaps of rubber and shoelaces.

But why is it so hard to say goodbye to an inanimate pair of running shoes that I could pick up for $50 at any average shoe store? Why do I feel like I'm pulling the plug on an old friend. It's not like the shoes have feelings or anything.

At the same time though, I think anybody who really loves a sport finds it hard to part with old equipment once it’s served its purpose. Whether you want to admit it or not, you form a bond with that equipment, whether it’s an old baseball glove you made a great catch with, or a tattered pair of gym shorts you played your best game in.

This may not be a bond on the par with that of a dog lover and their favorite canine friend, but it’s pretty darn close.

A lot of fond memories were made wearing those worn-out pair of Asics. I ran my first full marathon in them, competed in three triathlons with them, went on a 2-day bike trip with them and spent countless hours in the weight room with them.

Yet through it all, the Asics stayed strong, stayed tied and never complained about the abuse they were subjected to. They may not have been the most conversational companion to have on a long run, but they were at least reliable.

I'm sure my next pair of running shoes will serve their purpose on the running trail as well. I'm pretty diligent when it comes to shoe shopping and will scour countless shoe boxes in search of the right combination of comfort, durability and aesthetics. I don't really discriminate on brands either; I've gone from Adidas to New Balance to Nike to And 1 over the years.

But my heart will always have a soft spot for those blue and gold Asics.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Monster Dash costumes reviewed

With my running shoes tied tight and my costume in tow, Halloween morning for me was spent participating in the Monster Dash road race in Minneapolis. More than 3,500 people came out to run around Lake Harriet that morning, most of whom were decked out in costumes ranging from Superman to Super Mario. The races that morning included half-marathon, 10-mile and 5K options.

I've participated in a lot of road races, but I can't remember any with a more fun-loving atmosphere to it. Most of the people were focusing their ambitions on their costumes instead of where they wanted to finish in the race. Some were dressed in costumes so ridiculous - the duo carrying a giant cardboard bobsled for their "Cool Runnings" costume comes to mind - that I have a hard time understanding how they expected to compete at all. In my own experience, I came to discover that dressing up as Batman, while fulfilling nerdy boyhood ambitions, does not help me run faster.

But I suppose that's the appeal in signing up for a race like this: The fun factor of it. Road races come and go throughout the year and there's always going to be other chances to try for a personal best time. But there's only one day for Halloween, so you might as well take full advantage of the chance to dress outrageously for a day.

Due to my decision to sign up for the 5K race, I was able to get a few decent pictures of some of the costumes and runners competing in the half marathon and 10-mile events (see slideshow in the previous post). However, since my camera had sketchy functionality throughout the day, some of the best costumes actually went uncaptured by my camera's lens.

So, in an effort to paint a better picture of the costume-clad scenery of Monster Dash, I decided to award costumes (conceived and deliberated by a panel of one) in specific categories. Here is the list I came up with:

Best Disney movie costume:
A group of guys and a girl successfully pulled off "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs." Kudos to them for finding that many people game to run a half marathon. There was also a family dressed as "The Incredibles" and a couple dressed up like Shrek and Fiona. However, Snow White and her clan of dwarfs wins out simply due to strength in numbers.

Best overall movie reference in a costume: The guy dressed up as the bearded, cross country running version of Forrest Gump was pretty spot on. I half-expected him to stop in the middle of the race and say "I'm feeling kind of tired. I think I'm gonna go home now" in a thick southern accent. Apologies to the two guys who had their own Jamaican bobsled team a la "Cool Runnings."

Best video game costume:
A three way tie between a group of half marathon runners who were dressed as Mega Man, Metroid and the Super Mario Brothers. Honorable mention to the group pulling off Pac Man in the slideshow.

Costume that showed up with surprising regularity over the course of the day: Girls dressed as Wonder Woman, guys dressed in a full cow suit complete with utter were consistent themes.

Best Saturday Night Live reference in a costume:
Two people were dressed up as Patrick Swayze and Chris Farley in the Chipendale's skit, right down to Swayze's distinct head of hair and Farley's rotund figure. I don't really know how to feel about seeing this for a costume idea, seeing as how both the actors in the skit are now dead. Not sure whether it was in bad taste or if it was a fitting tribute.

Best backhanded costumes (aka costumes that are clever, but meant as an insult at the same time): Tough decision here. I really liked the two girls who wore the Latrell Spreewell and Stephon Marbury Timberwolves jerseys, if for nothing else just to torture the remaining Timberwolves fan base out there. But there were some other doozies as well. There was a Plaxico Burress reference (complete with New York Giants jersey and a giant red stain on the leg of their sweatpants), a Barry Bonds jersey with syringes taped to it, and a guy with a John McCain mask on and a t-shirt that read "Loser." I'm guessing that particular runner isn't a Republican.

Best TV show costume:
The pair of guys who pulled off Gilligan and the Skipper. I'm a sucker for retro TV references.

Best cartoon costume:
With all respect to Bart and Lisa Simpson in the 10-mile run, the couple who pulled off "Tom & Jerry" gets my vote. Simpson costumes are commonplace, Tom & Jerry costumes are a rarity.

Best board game costume:
Not much competition here. The woman dressed up as the patient from Operation wins hands down. I think I saw another person dressed as a huge Taboo button, but that was about it. Kind of surprised I didn't see anyone dressed up as the Monopoly guy.

Best historical costume: George Washington by a hair over Napoleon.

Best food costume: See photo of giant hot dog in slideshow. He even had ketchup and mustard bottles for props.