Monday, February 28, 2011

Have you heard about Untappd and New Beer Thursday?

I didn't write a blog last week so I figured I would write two this week.

I have been using on my phone to track the beer that I am drinking, and I really enjoy this application. It is a web based application that is social media for beer nerds like myself combining aspects of Foursquare with drinking games while keeping you connected to your friends.

Though Untappd I discovered there was a group of people encouraging people to engage in New Beer Thursday. Being a big fan on trying beers that I have never had I decided to quickly embrace this as soon as I found out about it. In two more weeks I will have earned the New Beer Thursday badge.

My only wish for untapped is that I could add all the beers I tried before I discovered untappd. As my followers may or may not know I am a major contributor to the Beer Wall. A couple of my friends and I have been collecting and drinking beer at my friend Tim's house for about 10 years now and we have about 5,000 unique beers on the wall right now.

We have rules. In order for a beer to be on the wall the beer must be drank at the wall's location. A beer cannot already be on the wall. Each beer in unique in that the bottles are all different. There are some beers that have made it on the wall multiple times because they were in different sizes or the bottles were completely redesigned. We also don't have Bud and many other mega brewers on the wall. The Beer Wall has been mentioned or featured in brewing publications such as Yankee Brew News.

If you haven't figured out by now, I really enjoy beer and I tend to be a bit competitive, which may explain why I choose to blog about beer and running.  If I could add my past beer history I would reach legendary status immediately, but I think it is going to be a lot of fun starting from scratch!

Where am I...

So it has been a couple weeks since my last post so I figured I would check in on my training for my first half marathon. I am proud to say for each week over the last seven weeks I have had at least one 10plus mile run. Before the first of the year I had never run 10 miles before.

Due to the severe winter we have had here in the northeast I haven't had a chance to attempt any further runs on my goal of running round trip to all the surrounding towns. I have three of the eight runs left but all of the routes left are on busy roads that don't have sidewalks and due to the excessive snow banks the shoulders are too narrow to risk it. On my last goal run to Agawam, Mass a couple weeks ago I came close to being hit by cars on at  least two occasions for this very reason. I figure that I will put the last three routes on hold until the snow melts.

Last week I figured out that my form was a little off. My right knee was going wild from side to side causing pain in my arch. I set out for what was supposed to be a four mile recovery run and was very deliberate with my form being sure to keep my knee under control. I set out on a slow pace and as the run went on I started to feel better and better. The whole run I was focusing on my form. I felt so good that I decided to go further and ended up with a 6 mile run and finished feeling great. I have since gone on two more runs including an almost 11 mile run while being very conscious of my form and I have felt great so far.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Trouble running outside in the winter?

This time of year can be very difficult to run if you live in an area that gets snow or ice. It really can interfere and discourage running. Around here we have had close to 70 inches of snow. it seems that every route that I have is at least partially covered in ice. Last winter I went to my local running store, Fast Feet, to see what I could get for spikes.

The clerk at the running store suggested I try Stabilicers. They are a durable rubber design that slips over any running shoe and has metal cleats on the bottom to provide traction on the ice. The package actually has a picture of a guy running on what looks like a frozen lake. I immediately thought there is no way that any product could provide that much traction on the ice. The guy on the package was taking long strides and it looked he was not concerned at all about slipping. Since Fast Feet has never let me down on their recommendations I figured I would give them a try. They cost about $35-40 (I don't remember exactly how much I paid for them last year.

Anyway i went for a run with them and they really did make a huge difference. I was mostly running on mixed terrain like sidewalks, roads, ice and some trails. While the Stabilicers added weight to my shoes they really did work with keeping me from sliding. They essentially look like the bottom rubber part of the sole of a running shoe with 9 metal cleats. I couldn't say enough about how good they work.

If you were only running on sidewalks and roads, I would probably suggest not wearing these while running, unless much of those sidewalks and roads are covered in snow. If you only had a little ice to worry about then leave these at home. If there is a snow storm and everything in coated then Stabilicers would be perfect.

What I didn't realize when i bought the Stabilicers was that the cleats are replaceable. It makes sense that they would be, but I just didn't realize it until I wore out the cleats to the point that the rubber started to wear through.

I happened to be on Twitter and I posted a question to my runner friends asking if anyone had tried Yak Tracks or Stabilicers and which ones they liked better. Yak tracks are a different technology that provides traction with coiled wires around rubber. I understand they do work, but the biggest complaint was that they break and I don't believe you can replace the wires.

Anyway, one of the responses I got was from a woman named Heather who worked for the company. Stabilicers are made in Biddeford, Maine (Near Portland) by a company called 32North. The woman who administers their twitter account was shocked to hear I thought I had worn out my Stabilicers and she asked that I post some pictures of them on their Facebook account, because apparently they are not used to having people wear them out. She also told me I could get replacement cleats if not completely worn.

I went done to Fast Feet and got some replacement cleats, and attempted to change them. I was able to replace about half of them. Two cleats were so worn I couldn't get a wrench on them and several were stuck. I think they may have seized in place after sitting unused over the summer.

I let Heather know what trouble I had with replacing the cleats and asked if there was a trick to it. She indicated they should come right off with a wrench. What she didn't know was that I ran on them with only the 9 new spikes and they worked fantastic. Not as good as new but substantially better than sneakers alone.

Anyway, the customer service of this company is so good that as soon as I had a problem they responded immediately even through I hadn't gone to them directly. Then they replaced my Stabilicers that I wore out from overuse without me asking. I am so happy that if i wear out this pair I will go out and purchase another. These are so good for running in snow and ice that for the amount of running I do it is worth $40 a year to not slip.

Now that I know I can replace the cleats I will be more careful to inspect and replace them before wearing through them. I have used my new Stabilicers a bunch already and I inspected them and replaced a few cleats already. These work so good for traction on slippery surfaces that there is no excuse to avoid running outside in the winter.

I speak so highly about Stabilicers that I know two of my runner friends who bought them on my advise. What I plan to do this year when it warms up and I put them away until next year is to remove all the cleats so they will not freeze in place again. I can replace the cleats again next winter. I think that will increase the longevity of this pair of Stabilicers.

There are not too many companies that I know of that have such a wonderful level of customer service. I bought the Stabilicers Sport model. They also have several other models. Check out their website for more information by clicking here . Be sure to let them know how you feel about their product. You can follow them on Twitter @32northSTABIL

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Pretty Things Beer and Ale Project!

I went to a Meet the Brewer event for a really interesting brewery that is based out of Somerville, Mass. The brewer is from Yorkshire, England and know lives is a suburb of Boston. Here is the interesting part. They call them selves a "gypsy brewery" because they don't actually own a brewery. They contract brew everything at whatever location is available to them. They have very creative minds when it comes to brewing beer. they also have really cool artwork on their products and web page.

The event was held in Springfield at a old place called Smith's billiards. The building Smith's is located in was featured on the show Ghost Hunters. I didn't get the talk to the brewer that night because we got to the tasting a little late. Josh Cohen, proprietor of Moe's Tavern, made the trip out. Moe's is one of the best bars in the country and happens to be located in Lee, Massachusetts.

I first tried the Pretty Things, Our Finest Regards, which was a barleywine style ale. This was one of the most robust and full beers I have had in years. It had a sweetness like you would expect from a barleywine but was not over sweet. It had a nice blend with with the other ingredients. It had a good bite but not too strong. All in all this was a well balanced beer. I don't know much about the alcohol content since it was not listed. I'm sure it was in 8-9% range as many barleywines tend to be. I would drink this everyday if I could.

They also had a beer called Pretty Things, St. Botolph's Town Rustic Dark Ale. This was really good too. It was kind of like a dry brown ale. They use malts from Yorkshire that  are still made by hand. The beer is fermented in the traditional english fashion of open squares and with two strains of yeast which gives it that rustic flavor they talk about.

This brewery is so creative and the brewer is so talented that I would not hesitate to try their beer. Everything I have tried from them has been amazing. Click on this link to check out the webpage Pretty Things Webpage

Pretty things is also on Facebook and you can follow them on twitter at @prettybeer

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

This snow is killing me!

So I just finished shoveling the massive amount of snow that we got in western Massachusetts. I have good neighbors and we help each other out with the shoveling/snowthrowing. My neighbor Tom always hides beers in the snow for much needed beer breaks. Yesterday we shared some Geary's beers. For those that don't know, Geary's is a brewery from Portland, Maine. They are pretty good. The best of the mix pack I bought was the London Porter. It has a slight smokey flavor and the malt is not to sweet, which is a nice blend of flavors. I am not a big fan of overly sweet beers.

What I really wanted to write about today was the 14.2 mile run I completed this past weekend. A few weeks ago I told everyone that I had a goal to run to and from all the surrounding towns from my house. I also mentioned that I had run to Granville but rather then do a round trip i tried to run to the center of town and got a ride back. The road to Granville is about 9 miles from my house and goes mostly up a mountain.

Well this past weekend I decided that I would run the round trip to the Granville town line and back. That had mapped out to about a 10 mile run. When I got to the town line I felt so good, despite the steep incline, that I decided I was going to go a little further. I decided to make my new turnaround the Cobble Mountain reservoir access road. This added about 2.5 miles to the trip.

The run was on a snowy country road, which was fairly quiet with traffic. I only saw a car every couple of minutes. At the town line is a cool old school town line marker and is located at a summit point on the mountain located at an apple orchard.

There are some really amazing views on this route. I was still feeling pretty good when I was on the way back that I decided that I wanted to push myself a bit. So I took a left turn on Northwest Road in Westfield. This is a very windy and hilly road and added about 1.5 to 2 miles to the route. About a quarter mile after the turn and about 9 miles in to the run my feet began to ache. I noticed they were soaking wet which probably explains why they were starting to hurt. I immediately thought that I made a mistake adding on to this run. I am the king of overdoing it.

I stopped and walked a little bit while trying to stretch my feet. I noticed it was starting to get dark and i took a picture of the nice view from where I was. As you can see from the picture on the bottom left the sky was starting to get dark and i still had 5 miles to go and no reflectors.

I started running again and really had to push myself to keep going. I didn't want to be stuck on a dark country road at night without any type of reflector or a sidewalk to run on. After about 11 miles I was finally starting to feel better, and now there were sidewalks to run. The road was much more busy so the sidewalks were a necessity; however, many people had not shoveled their sidewalks so running became a little bit slow and more challenging.

I pushed through and finally after over 2 hours I was a half mile from home. This is about the point that I pick up my pace significantly and come to a near sprint but I had nothing left for energy. I made an unspectacular finish but I was ecstatic because I just finished another leg of my goal and ran further than I have ever run.

I am officially half way done with running to all the surrounding towns. The remaining towns will all be long challenging runs, but with the exception of one on them, none will be remotely as challenging to the incline of this run.

As a relatively new blogger, I wonder if people are enjoying these posts. I would love feedback if I am leaving out the parts of my adventures that people are most interested in. Feel free to email or post a comment to let me know what you think.