First half marathon diary, Week 16

Happy Monday, friends!

Something got into my legs this week. I was on the road 24 minutes and change less than last week, while my distance was only down 0.14 miles. And that's while missing a day off.

I did eat a lot more carbs this week than normal. I've started having a peanut butter and banana sandwich (or two!), and I'm eating more rice. I wonder if that had something to do with speed and stamina.

This was the first week that when I finished my long run, I had some muscle cramping. It was the first time I crossed the 11-mile mark, and the first time I crossed the 2-hour mark, and maybe I have to remember to cool down and stretch a little more than I usually do. Normally I just have a Gatorade and get on my way.

Anyway, 11 miles, and I feel like if you told me I had a week, I'd be able to push out another couple of miles. Onward!

Links

Me on Runkeeper
More running diary
Rock 'n' Roll Savannah
Training schedule

Stats

Miles logged last week: 28.41
Time logged last week: 5:03:05
Weeks until race: 7
Weight: 155

This post is brought to you by Shroom Tech Sport, my pre-workout of choice. No caffeine, no shakes, no weird warm feeling coming over you. Just some extra drive to get you through.

Sweaty Josh picture of the week

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Date night Savannah: Bar Food, CO, river, Bohemian and Leopold’s

We set out for a networking event last week, and found it was canceled. Woo! A reason to go out and try new places!

2015-06-18 18.00.06We'd been meaning to get to Bar Food for a while, but it's in a part of town we don't go to a lot, but it was right around the corner from our canceled event, so we went, had a beer and a snack. They have a solid selection of craft brews and the other usuals. I had a Two Boots, while Jenny had a cider. We shared a cheese board, which came with some toast, four cheeses, local honey, some pickles and strawberries. Great way to start the evening. The menu looked really good; the crowd was interesting — it's a contemporary, kind of hipster place, but the crowd leaned not exactly biker, but not exactly not biker.

We then headed downtown to another place that was on my list, CO, which recently opened in Savannah after having restaurants in Charleston and Myrtle Beach. Our server, Grace, soft-sold us some cucumber mojitos, which were light and refreshing on a 103-degree day. We had summer rolls and gyoza (pork dumplings) as appetizers — both delicious — and Jenny ordered some pad thai while I had a tiger roll, which their menu describes as "shrimp, surimi salad, cucumber, yamagobo, avocado, unagi sauce, spicy aioli." We were both very pleased with the meals, and with the overall atmosphere. We sat at the sushi bar, but there's also a bar in the front, some booths in the back, a couple of high tops and some long tables should you decide you might want to meet a couple of people. The electronic dance music was quiet and suited the space well. We'll be back, though we're worried this will become a hot spot and we won't be able to get a seat next time.

A photo posted by Josh Shear (@joshuanshear) on

Left, from top: Pork gyoza, cucumber mojito, summer roll. Right, from top: Pad thai with chicken and shrimp, tiger roll

With quite full bellies, we wandered on down to the river to sit for a bit. If you're ever wondering why we might have moved here, it's because we can park, walk and have this view about 330 nights a year.

2015-06-18 20.08.02-1

We finally decided after almost an hour to get up and visit a bar we'd gone to once and found it too crowded (at 10:00 on a Friday night). Rocks on the Roof at the Bohemian Hotel. The rooftop is open on two sides, one overlooking the Savannah River, and one overlooking the crowds on Bay Street and Founders Walk. We sat on the river side on a sofa and sipped a gin and tonic, and met a recently engaged couple. The electronic dance music seemed a little loud out of place for a space that's reminiscent of more of a jazz cocktail lounge, but it's still a cool spot.

Cute, happy and on a rooftop. #visitsavannah #savannah #datenight

A photo posted by Josh Shear (@joshuanshear) on

2015-06-18 21.47.03-1Our last stop for the night was, of course, at Leopold's. If you're new to the area or just visiting and the line out the door has turned you off, don't sweat it. The bend in the line at the curb is about a seven-minute wait, the ice cream is homemade and the soda fountain is basically the same as it was in 1930-whatever. I love the butter pecan ice cream, but pictured here is a dish of chocolate chewies and cream and a hot fudge sundae, which are both also delicious. They even have seasonal flavors; the Japanese cherry blossom is light and creamy and wonderful.

And apparently they also make good soups and such, but for now, we're happy working our way through the ice cream menu.

Where should we go next, Savannah?

Product review: Alpha Brain nootropic by Onnit

Alpha Brain is a nootropic by Onnit. Nootropics are any supplement or drug (however you want to see it) designed to improve your brain in some way, be it processing speed, memory retention or whatever else.

alpha-brainAlpha Brain purports to be the first nootropic tested by a non-interested party to get statistically significant improvements in brain function; that's reported in press releases from the company that produces it, so take that at face value. Personally, I'm skeptical about achieving statistically significant results with a sample size of 18, but my research background is in social science, not in science as applied to actual humans.

WebMD rambles on a bit about whether a supplement could improve brain function, but focuses specifically on certain forms of dementia, such as Alzheimer's. The not-quite-a-conclusion is that if you hit a battered brain with enough stuff, something's bound to help a little bit.

Lots of drugs, vitamins, minerals and supplements are listed as potential nootropics; here's a little more from Wikipedia.

Now, let me tell you about my own experience. I've been using Alpha Brain for most of 2015, taking a week off here and there to let my brain reset to its natural, unsupplemented state (well, I don't stop the caffeine, so, there's that). I will say that about 45 minutes after taking it, I feel sharper. I make fewer typos and generally fewer minor mistakes. I have a desk job that requires strong control of the English language, and I take fewer tries to get it right while I have it in my system.

I do know that Onnit runs banned substance tests to make sure everything that goes into Alpha Brain is legal in most capacities, including pro sports.

I take it, and I recommend it.

Disclaimer: I am not a doctor, nor do I play one on the Internet. Talk to your doctor before taking supplements – they are largely unregulated by the FDA. Also, if you buy this product using my link, I will get a small percentage of the sale. This product was not provided free of charge for review; I pay full price for my Alpha Brain.

What we’re drinking: Savannah Craft Brew Races

Here are some of my faves from the festival at Savannah's Craft Brew Race last week (see ratings and brief thoughts on Untappd).

Service Brewing Compass Rose and Old Guard Biere de Garde. Service Brewing is a veteran-owned Savannah brewery. Compass Rose is a tasty IPA that I could just stick my nose in forever. It has a nice floral aroma, and drinks easily. Keith does it more justice, and has the benefit of comparing it to last year's release. Bierre de Garde is one of their R&D beers, made with some locally produced honey. It's a nice sipper, a little heavier on account of the honey, but not too sweet.

Bonus: The new run of Old Guard hit the shelves in just the past couple of days.

Coastal Empire Southern Delight Praline Amber. Coastal is another Savannah brewery. Southern Delight Praline Amber is a seasonal beer with a decidedly local flair — pralines being a Savannah treat. This is a nice, light amber that isn't weighed down by the sweetness, which comes through well. I definitely recommend this one if you can get it.

Terrapin Liquid Bliss. I don't care what you think of darker beers, Liquid Bliss from Atlanta's Terrapin is simply delicious. It's a chocolate peanut butter porter. It's really well-balanced, with a not-too-sweet dark chocolate taste and a hint of peanut butter. You might even forget you're drinking a beer. Terrapin is spreading up the East Coast; they're now available as far north as New Jersey, so y'all might be able to find some soon in New York.

Sour Plum Saison by Orpheus Brewing. Orpheus is another Atlanta brewery. They do a sour series, including a fig sour, which is a fall seasonal. The plum sour might be an occasional or a research release for them, but I'm hoping to be able to find it. It was really interesting. I do enjoy some sour beers, and the plum is such a different twist, in general, for a beer that I think this is worth a shot.

Heavy Seas Beer Loose Cannon. Heavy Seas is a Maryland Brewery, and Loose Cannon is its flagship beer, a citrusy IPA that tastes mainly of grapefruit up front with a pine finish that will be familiar to IPA fans. I would love a session version of this, but still, after a run on a hot day, the citrus is refreshing even at 7.25% ABV.

What are you drinking?

Recipe: Low country rice with shrimp and andouille sausage

This wound up so delicious I thought I might share. It's a bit of a project; give yourself a bunch of time.

2015-03-09 15.55.37Ingredients:

  • Six slices bacon
  • 2 lbs. shrimp
  • 1 lb. andouille sausage
  • 2 celery stalks
  • 1 green bell pepper
  • 4 jalapeño peppers
  • 1 large onion
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • Creole seasoning (I used a local blend from The Salt Table)
  • 1 lb. rice
  • 3 cans diced tomatoes
  • 2.5 cups chicken broth

In a large pan or pot (or dutch oven), cut up about six slices of bacon and get them cooking. While that's going on, slice a couple of celery stalks, a large onion, a few cloves of garlic, a green bell pepper and a couple of jalapeño peppers.

When the bacon is crispy, scoop it out with a slotted spoon and set it aside, leaving the fat in the pan. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Pour all the veggies in and let them cook. Add the diced tomatoes (including the liquid) and chicken broth. Let simmer. Add the rice.

When the rice is done cooking, transfer to a casserole dish (or, if using the dutch oven, leave it in there), and put it in the oven for 45 minutes.

Peel the shrimp and cut up the andouille sausage. Add the bacon and creole seasoning and toss, then cook.

When everything's done, combine and toss.

Recipe: Breakfast cookies

Breakfast cookies!

A photo posted by Josh Shear (@joshuanshear) on

Take three overripe bananas, mash them up until they're the consistency of apple sauce. Add two cups of oats and mix well.

After that, the ingredients are negotiable, but here is what I added:

• One chopped apple
• Four tablespoons peanut butter
• Dash of vanilla

Mix it all well. Spoon it onto a cookie sheet. Bake at 350 for 20 minutes. Let cool. Eat. The end.

Date night Savannah: The Olde Pink House and 22 Square

One thing I'm finding in Savannah is one of those things that's nice to see in a business community: businesses in the same industry recommending each other. Without variety, an industry dies down. Without competition, an individual business can get lazy.

In a big tourist town (12 million visitors a year, and they don't allow cruise ships to dock here), there will never be a shortage of restaurants. But that doesn't mean they can't strive to be the best.

My conversation with Chef Brandon Whitestone of The Olde Pink House started with me saying we had a great night that included a dessert stop and him recommending another bar.

I went on to say thanks, and that my wife and I would have to give his restaurant a try, too; he responded as if it almost hadn't occurred to him to recommend himself.

Nice.

We got our reservations in (even two weeks out, a Monday, a 7 p.m. seating request had to be pushed out to 7:15, so if you're planning on a trip, call early), and spent way too long staring at the menu over those two weeks. We made sure we read the bad reviews on Yelp so we knew what to watch out for (mostly the complaints were about cold food and long prep times; not only did we not experience either, but the latter isn't something we were worried about — if you're looking to not wait for your food, either pick a fast food place or pick a destination not in the deep south).

So, Monday night, off to The Olde Pink House we went.

We managed to get parking nearby; Miss Kimberly and Chef Brandon both made sure to introduce themselves. We were seated in what was the master bedroom of the original house, next to a window overlooking Reynolds Square. The window still had some of the original panes in it (you can tell because old panes had a higher lead content, creating the appearance of waves in the glass).

Now, it was need-a-flash-on-your-camera-dark in there and people were enjoying their vacations and Valentine's Day celebrations, so we didn't take pictures of our food; we'll have to let the words do it.

Jenny started with a semi-sweet riesling; I ordered a Sazerac cocktail (Herbsaint is essentially absinthe, so that's what's typically used, if you're looking cross-eyed at the recipe). Both were delivered promptly and cold.

We shared three appetizers. First, a charcuterie that included a fantastic mustard that must have been house-made and a local camembert-style cheese, along with some Berkshire meat and tasty accoutrements. After that, we had artichoke fritters; these were artichoke hearts stuffed with goat cheese and lightly batter-fried, done with a spicy sauce. Then, jalapeño poppers, stuffed with some very creamy mac & cheese. All were delicious.

For dinner, Jenny had sea scallops and shrimp tossed over fettuccine with a cream sauce, and asked them to toss in some spinach. I had their house specialty, scored flounder, which is a whole fish (sans head), scored into little medallions, then cooked and topped with a spicy apricot glaze. It was delicious. To eat it, you pop up the medallions, chew, swallow, repeat, then flip the fish and do it again on the other side. They claim to be the first to serve it in this style, though it's a popular method for cooking flounder in other locales as well.

While we dined, a maitre d' came by a couple of times, as did our server. We felt well-attended-to and well-fed, and will most certainly be back.

We then walked five blocks to the Andaz Hotel (which Chef Brandon mentioned in his first tweet to me), for coffee and dessert. The hotel restaurant, 22 Square, offers a much different environment from Olde Pink House, very contemporary, with modern art on the walls and some exposed brick. The cocktail list looked interesting, but we were at a nice finishing-up point.

Jenny had ice cream and berries. It was a raspberry base with some Italian wedding cookies mixed in, made by Leopold's specifically for the restaurant and only available there. I had a dark and stormy chocolate cake, which, as the name implies, is derived from the rum-and-ginger ale cocktail. The cake tasted like a chocolate gingerbread, and the rum was pleasantly infused in the icing. It came with a scoop of very creamy vanilla ice cream, which I can only imagine must have come from Leopold's as well.

I think next time we try 22 Square, it will be for pre-dinner cocktails, and we'll sit at the bar. While the food was delicious and I love what they're doing with local food, the contemporary atmosphere was a little overwhelming to me with the bright colors and the art and the more open space allowing sound to travel a little more. But we'll definitely be back to Olde Pink House at some point.

Where to next, Savannah?

Autumn, here

This is what a sunny autumn afternoon looks like in our backyard. By autumn, I mean that yesterday, it was 60 degrees and sunny, while those back in Central New York (and in other parts of the northeast) were digging out from a 15-inch snowfall.

The stuff hanging from the tree, which is a live oak (after they shed their leaves in fall, they bud again immediately instead of waiting until spring), is Spanish moss. It's pretty and it gives an ancient, mysterious feel to the trees it hangs from. It's also home to a mite called the chigger, which will inject a digestive hormone into your skin and live off an inner layer of skin for a while until you start seeing a rash and get rid of it (which means you don't touch the stuff).

We're starting to meet our neighbors, getting accustomed to walking out the door and spending 15 minutes chatting before getting on our way. The dog is off leash during the day, typically.

We got to meet the good Brothers of Roger Lacey Lodge No. 722 and their Ladies at their election and installation. We're finding community.

We have enough stuff unpacked to cook a decent meal. The first thing that wasn't a simple veggie omelet was ox tail soup, with yucca root, carrots and onions. I took some of the beef fat from the soup, cooked some kale in it and poured the soup over the kale.

We found some sriracha amongst our things, and added it for some spice.

If you haven't had it, yucca root has sort of the consistency of a chewy potato, but with a hint of a sort of coconut sweetness to it.

By early next week, we'll have most of the amenities of home. Our furniture will be out of storage, as will our washer and dryer. Our TV and Internet hookup will be connected. We'll have stuff to get rid of and trash day to figure out, but that can all wait until it needs to happen.

In the meantime, we have fresh air and sunshine, and we've spent a lot of time speaking to the neighbors. We miss our friends back in CNY, but we'll connect soon, there, here or in between.

Enjoy Thursday, friends.

The 4-Hour Body by Tim Ferriss: Books that will change your life, and how to use them

Tim Ferriss is, by now, well-known for the 4-hour franchise. His first book, The 4-Hour Workweek, was famously rejected by dozens of publishers before becoming an overwhelming hit, having been translated into thirty-something languages (as of this writing) and sending a lot of people into entrepreneurship.

That book was basically a collection of productivity hacks for people with a product to sell, giving them the opportunity to cut down drastically on the amount of work they had to do while keeping their revenue streams up.

The message for me from The 4-Hour Workweek that sticks, though, is not the main message of the book, which is essentially how to get rich while other people handle the tough work for you. It’s that it’s an instruction manual for stuff that Ferriss tried himself, using his own business to experiment on.

And so we pick up Ferriss’ second book, The 4-Hour Body, a 600-page book about changing your body. Ferriss writes about losing fat and gaining muscle, both quickly and over the long term, including doing so while more or less ignoring every dieting “rule” you’ve ever heard. He writes about having better sex. He writes about supplementation (read: drugs). He draws from the experiments he’s performed on himself (and a few other willing subjects).

That brings us to the punchline, about how this book really does change your life.

The takeaway: It’s OK to experiment on yourself.

Sure, it’s nice to have a physician available, especially if you don’t understand the chemistry at play in your body and in certain drugs. And if you are trying new stuff for the first time, having an urgent care or emergency medical facility nearby is a good thing (and maybe you want to have a ride available, just in case). But to be honest, while the body can be a fragile thing, it’s also really resilient, and it lets you know when you’re taking it too far through pain or other reactions (like swelling, for example).

But in general, you should really learn to be comfortable trying new things, and also observing how they affect you. This applies to food, activities, sleep and pretty much any part of life you want to apply it to.

To observe correctly, however, you must measure and document. Ferriss has done pretty much all the work for you. If you want to lose 2% body fat in two weeks, he’ll give you the shortcuts. If you want to put on 18 pounds tomorrow, he’ll let you know. But he also lets you know how to measure and document your progress, so you can see for yourself, and that’s the part of The 4-Hour Body that’s most interesting to me.

Why it’s important: It makes you the expert.

You don’t need a personal trainer, or a dietitian or a scientist. You record what you eat, you record how you feel, how it changes your weight, etc., and you do it again under the same conditions at another time to see if there were any extraneous factors (that is, to see if it’s replicable).

You would be the best expert on you, if you were to pay attention. And, the punchline here, is that you can extrapolate all you learn to other parts of life. The observation, data collection and other skills certainly translate outside of eating and running.

How to use it: Ferriss himself leaves instructions for how to use the book. Pick a couple of chapters that are relevant to you, and read those first. Utilize the tips. Do your experimenting. Then read the rest of the book if it’s interesting to you.

End-of-summer to Thanksgiving challenge: Week 2

I thought I was actually going to put on a couple of pounds this week. I've been having some major food issues — notably not eating enough calories during the day, then back-loading on high-sugar foods at midnight or later to catch up.

2014-weight-loss-002But I listened to Steve Austin's podcast (auto-plays, NSFW), and someone asked about his diet, since he's trying to lean out for some upcoming TV shows. He's eating a lot of protein (350g) and calories (over 3,000), which is way more than I need, but he's also filling some of his meals out with oatmeal and potatoes and rice.

So I picked up some of those dense starches to take the place of things like, oh, peanut butter cups and cookies. And even in just a couple of days, it worked wonders. So, that's going to be part of the plan for the fall, I think. Not whole meals of piles of rice, of course, but a couple of fistfuls of oatmeal in my protein shake in the morning means it will stick a little longer. In fact, the first time I did it, it was 30g of whey protein, a banana, a serving of peanut butter and a little bit of oatmeal, and I had enough fuel for a three-mile run three hours after I drank it, on what was supposed to be a rest day (I just had some energy I needed to get out).

Anyway. It was also a pushups and pull-ups day. My two-minute max pushups was up almost 15%; my pull-ups increased twice that.

Here's the updated tracker sheet.

Weight Miles 2-minute pushups Pullups 3 sets to failure (total)
8/25/2014 163.2 N/A 63 23
9/1/2014 161.6 10.03 N/A N/A
9/8/2014 160.2 13.41 72 30
9/15/2014 N/A N/A
9/22/2014
9/29/2014 N/A N/A
10/6/2014
10/13/2014 N/A N/A
10/20/2014
10/27/2014 N/A N/A
11/3/2014
11/10/2014 N/A N/A
11/17/2014 N/A N/A
11/24/2014