Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Firecracker 4 run

Happy Independence everybody. This morning, I participated in the 11th annual Firecracker 4 race. For the eleventh year, Saratoga Springs hosted a tough four mile race through downtown. Where would you rather be on the fourth of July? I want to run a few miles with over three thousand other runners.

Runners Set
I did not eat anything prior to the race, only hydrating my body with water. Stretching and a couple warm up runs helped calm my nerves prior to the start of the race. Now, all the runners are at the start line, running watches getting programmed to their proper settings.

Air horn sounds and the Runners are off.
After taking off towards the first mile, it felt like I was starting slow but did not show any panic. Kept telling myself to run my own race without wearing down at the end of the course. It was surprising to see the time for Mile 1, 6:40. After hitting the mile marker, I decided to conserve energy following runners. It was nice seeing Saratoga Springs residents out on the sidewalks cheering all of the runners on along with musical entertainment. Running through hoses, especially on a humid day like this, was refreshing. I would rather see the mile marker timers instead of having a spectator shout out the time. Around the mile 2 mark, the spectator was shouting out 13:30 as I passed (6:50 mile).

The last half of the race would an endurance test with a couple hills to challenge all the runners. Approaching mile 3, my body started to get tired but I told myself, do not stop under any circumstance. I thought about walking a little bit with less than a mile to go but my mind was telling me to slow down and keep running. The last hill on Excelisor Street was tough not allowing me to give me an extra burst of speed. It did not upset me so I ran across the finish line with a 7:04 mile.

My splits were (6:40, 6:50, 7:00, and 7:04). Yes, the splits increased but I was very pleased with my performance. I did a tune up run the other day with a time of 29:30. Today, my official time was 27:45 with an average pace of 6:57. My Garmin watch was 27:38 averaging 6:53 per mile. Overall, I finished 229th out of nearly 3000 finishers which is a great accomplishment. I'm starting to enjoy the shorter distance races more. Can't wait to get signed up for another one soon.

Thank you to everyone involved putting on a safe and exciting road race. Also, thank you law enforcement and volunteers keeping the runners safe, handing out race packets, and refueling us after the race.  The spectators and musicians who performed along the course were very encouraging cheering all the runners on was gratifying. This was my fourth race in Saratoga Springs and it has been a very positive experience.

Happy Running
-Matt

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Vegan Five One Eats #4

Hello friends, it has been awhile since I did a featured Vegan eatery. Maybe it was the four bottomless cups of coffee that inspired me to write a post. Yesterday, I met up with my cousin Winsley and Patrick for a delicious brunch at Cafe Madison. Cafe Madison is located on Madison Avenue in Albany, NY. My friend, Jenna, recommended this eatery to me several months ago but never got around to stopping in. Thank you very much for the suggestion.

If you are vegan, make sure to ask for the vegan menu because it is separated from the regular menu. For my first trip, I ordered their French Toast with Maple Seitan Sausage based on a waitress recommendation. Their bread is home made dipped in dairy free batter (almond milk, banana puree, cinnamon, and sugar). The French Toast was delicious and filling. For my next trip, I will be ordering their Loaded Breakfast Burrito. Overall, the vegan options for brunch were very good and would recommend it to those looking for a great brunch spot. Check out the vegan menu here.

There is no food picture to post because I wanted to act like a regular human being interacting socially. That means, not staring at your phone while a conversation is taking place. Cafe Madison was an excellent establishment with great service and delicious vegan food. If you want to be guaranteed a table, I would recommend getting there early because it gets busy relatively quick. Cafe Madison opens at 7:30 Monday-Sunday.

Cafe Madison is located at 1108 Madison Avenue in Albany, NY 
For specials, get social with the Cafe

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Tri-City Valleycats Fathers Day Home Run 5K

Saturday morning was a great day to run in a local 5K race. The race was at Joseph Bruno Stadium on the Hudson Valley Community College campus, home of the Tri-City Valleycats. I've been running mostly long distance races so it was time to switch to a shorter distance. A 5K race is always tough so don't be fooled by the distance (3.1 miles). Overall, it was a very fun and satisfying race. Now, here's the recap.

Wednesday prior to the race, I ran a 5K distance to get myself ready for Saturday. This would be very interesting considering I did not do any running since the Vermont City Marathon on Memorial Day weekend. Wednesday was tough but I got through the run and did very well. My watch recorded negative splits which is a very good sign (7:19, 6:46, 6:34, and 6:20 pace for the final tenth of a mile). Not too bad for not running the previous three weeks. This gave me a lot of confidence heading into Saturday's race.

Saturday morning, I made a couple mental notes not to eat a heavy meal prior to the race. I limited it to toast and a banana while hydrating myself with a couple glasses of water. Do not go too fast out of the gate. Off to the stadium for packet pick up and pre-race warm up/stretch. I'm not as tense and nervous when I do some warm up runs prior to the start.

The horn sounds and the runners are off. Heading up Williams Road into the residential area, I felt very good about my pace within the first mile at 6:28. Heading into mile 2, the fatigue was starting to creep in a little bit. Even though it would be tough to make up ground, I was not getting passed so much. The water stop heading up a hill back to Williams Road helped even though my pace was the slowest (7:02). Once I cleared the hill and headed back onto campus, I was still a little fatigued but not as slow back in the residential streets. I kept telling myself to run through the finish even though I was getting tired. The finish was inside the baseball stadium on the field. The remaining distance was on the warning track. I got passed by a couple runners at the end but I was very happy to see the time at the finish line. My official time was 21:19 with a 6:53 pace. Mile three was a 6:53 pace with 6:20 the remaining distance. I finished inside the top 5 in my age group, 31st overall out of over 340 runners. Even though the splits were not consistent, I was very pleased with the result. To my knowledge, this is the fastest time for a 5K race. Looking forward to the Firecracker 4 race in Saratoga Springs coming up on July 4th.

Thank you very much HMRRC and all the Tri-City Valleycats staff for putting on a great event for Fathers Day. Also, thank you to the volunteers and law enforcement for keeping all the runners safe on the course.

No pictures for this race but it was nice to have a different race recap aside from just marathons and half-marathons. Happy running everyone and stay safe.

-Matt

Monday, May 29, 2017

Vermont City Marathon

On May 28th, I completed my third marathon. Was it the result I desired? No. Aside from that, it was a very fun event and it allowed me to take in the beautiful scenery throughout Burlington. Prior to yesterday, I have never stepped foot in the state of Vermont. I was very excited to make my first trip a pleasant experience. Why not run a marathon race. Burlington was an awesome city and Run Vermont did an excellent job putting on this event.

When mile one is complete, I look at my watch to see how fast I am running. This allows me to dictate the tempo throughout the race. If the time is between, 7:30 and 8 minutes, that is a pretty comfortable pace for me over a long distance. The first mile was 7:52 on South Willard Street coming back towards Church Street.

Miles 2-7 were surprisingly fast (7:18, 7:19, 7:09, 7:14, 7:23, and 7:20) thinking I could keep that up for at least most of the race. Old North End (Route 127) which was a simple down and back segment of the course was where I had great endurance and strong level of confidence. Running through downtown Burlington was a surreal experience. Spectators cheering and holding up signs was very encouraging. Going down Church Street twice (mile 2 and 9) was awesome getting a high five from a drag queen. All the spectators throughout the course were awesome.

Miles 9-14 were pretty solid, not above an eight minute pace (7:51, 7:22, 7:42, 8:00, 7:46, and 7:59). The scenery was very nice passing through Oakledge Park and Redwood Park. Running on residential streets is always very nice and peaceful. Oakledge Park has a nice view of Lake Champlain and downtown Burlington. To my right was the Earth Clock designed by the Circles for Peace organization. Mile 14 and 15 brought the runners back through downtown again approaching Battery Street. I was thinking about that hill coming up and my pace began to slow.

One of the amazing sights I passed on my run, The Earth Clock


Once I hit the gradual Battery Street hill (miles 15-16), I hit the wall but still kept pushing. I knew if I walked on that hill, the rest of the race would be very difficult for me. For the remainder of the race, my pace started to increase close to nine minutes. Some of my paces were around 9:30. I was constantly stopping at all the water, Gatorade, and fruit stops to stay hydrated because it was getting humid out. Looking at my times, they were slightly better than anticipated.

It was crushing watching the 3:30 pace group leaders pass me at mile 18. As I approached the final stretch, I realized that running is not just about achieving a personal best. It is about enjoying the moment and realizing the accomplishment you are about to achieve. Running through the residential streets off of North Avenue was very fun as spectators lined their driveways with lawn chairs, sprinklers, and rock music. With all that music I heard on the course, I was not sure if I had a headache or more encouraged in my run.

Mile 22 could not come soon enough, the final stretch towards the finish and running along Lake Champlain under shaded trees. Even though my paces were very slow, the spectators helped me get through the race. I was filled with all different kinds of emotions. Did my mental focus suffer? possibly. I started to realize what I have accomplished in one year. My mind was telling me: Matt, you are about to finish your third marathon in three different states. You should be very proud of your achievements. Keep going and do your best. All I can do was keep running, enjoy the scenery, and learn from this race to help me prepare for my next one.

Approaching mile twenty-six, the finish line in sight, the crowds lined the barricades cheering all the runners on. It was quite a sight to experience hearing your name being called and giving you positive encouragement. Finishing in Waterfront Park in the grass was a nice relief after taking a beating from the asphalt. Monday afternoon, writing this post, my right foot is still really sore.

10:40 AM, the rewarding feeling of a medal being placed around your neck after 26.2 miles. This is what I look forward to after several months of training and preparation. Wow, Vermont was an amazing experience. Burlington was a heart-warming city.

Thank you very much to all the sponsors who helped make the event possible. Also, I'm grateful for all the medical staff and law enforcement who provided all the participants with a fun and safe race. All the volunteers were amazing being a part of the running community, even cheering us on throughout the course. All the bands and musicians lined along the course provided a pretty nice running soundtrack. All the photographers lined up throughout the course, how do I look? The aid, food and beverage, and the misting stations were very beneficial throughout the event. All the spectators that came out to cheer us on throughout the course, you were awesome and amazing. You might think you are not doing much for runners when actually you make a tremendous difference. One reason why I enjoy running long distance races. Burlington, you gave me an experience that I will never forget. Thank you for the memories.

With all my love and gratitude,
Matt

"In short, running can change your outlook on life and make a new person out of you."- Marc Bloom

Friday, May 12, 2017

Vegan Five One Eats #3 New York City edition

Two delicious vegan slices. Thank you Two Boot's (Lexington Avenue).


On Tuesday, I took a bus to New York City to be in the audience for The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. Prior to that, I went on a search for a delicious vegan establishment. First thought that comes to mind when it comes to New York food staples? Pizza. I went to a couple pizzeria's in previous trips but never talked about my experiences on here. One place that has delighted my taste buds: Two Boot's. They have several locations throughout New York City. Tuesday took me to 39th Street and Lexington Avenue for a couple fresh slices.

I got a friendly greeting from the cashier and looked at the single slice selection. I'm ecstatic when they have not one but two vegan options available: V For Vegan and Earth Mother. Of course, I ordered both flavors because it is rare to have both available at the multiple locations.

V For Vegan contains Artichokes; Shitake Mushrooms; Red Pepper Pesto; Daiya Cheese; and Basil Pesto on a dairy free pizza crust. Earth Mother consists of Peppers; Onions; Pesto; Spinach; and Mushrooms on a whole wheat Sicilian crust (vegan of course).

If you ask me which one was my favorite? Honestly, I could not give you a straight answer. I've had V For Vegan on prior visits and it did not disappoint once again. The crust was soft and I could fold the slice to eat by hand. If you a person, such as, Donald Trump who eats it with a fork, shame on you. The slice was loaded with ingredients for a thin slice and it was very fresh when I arrived. Earth Mother on the other hand was a very thick slice with their "garden" ingredients. This was my first time having this specialty and it was absolutely delicious. I have never had a pizza with whole wheat dough before. I was very impressed with the Whole Wheat Sicilian dough and will have to find it next time I decide to make pizza on my own. Earth Mother did not contain cheese unlike V For Vegan but that did not bother me. I heard it is frowned upon to order vegan cheese on a Sicilian style pizza. Anyone can correct me if I'm wrong.

I apologize if this is a short post, I wanted to get it out before it was too late. Overall, I was very impressed with the establishment on my return. I'll definitely be going back to the Lexington Avenue for those two flavor slices. If you are looking for more locations, click here. Also, anyone other vegan pizza establishments I need to try, please let me know in a comment. Until next time, happy eating.

-Matt

Monday, May 8, 2017

Vegan Five One Eats #2

On Friday, my second stop for Vegan Five One Eats took me to The Happy Cappuccino in the Crossgates Mall in Albany.  They have a second location in Schenectady on Jay Street with a wide variety of vegan-friendly options as well but menu items are subject to change. The Happy Cappuccino also serves hot and cold specialty beverages made to order. If you are looking for a nice treat after your sanwich, they sell other local businesses bakery items available for purchase.

I attempted to eat at the Jay Street location awhile back but it was taking cash only at the time. A couple days ago, I received a message from the business stating that it was a temporary obstacle and are accepting cards again.

The restaurant was quiet at 4:45 PM except for a few guests chatting at the table over beverages. After a few minutes, I place my order for a Vegan Deli Sandwich containing Seitan, Onions, Mustard, Tomato, and lettuce on a ciabatta roll. The sandwich was good but I felt slightly disappointed in terms of value. A few suggestions to add more flavor visually and taste: add a small side of greens or chips to the sanwich; toasting the bread and an opportunity to add additional ingredients would be beneficial; maybe adding a sandwich special that is only made during a specific time period (weekly). I'm not much of a bread fanatic, but the type used on that sandwich was absolutely delicious and the Seitan slices were very thick. I would love to return to The Happy Cappucino especially Jay Street for a cup of coffee and sandwich.

After finishing my sandwich, I ordered two Vegan biscotti's: Cinnamon Chocolate Chip and White Chocolate Caramel. Don't be deceived by the picture, those two pastries were pretty big. The biggest biscotti's I have ever seen. I will have to purchase them when they are fresh in the morning instead of 5:30 PM. Despite that, I couldn't finish them in one sitting and they were good.

Overall, the selection is good between the two locations. Yes, they accommodate all meat and dairy consumers too. I can't wait to visit again soon. Until next time, happy eating.

-Matt

 Wow! What big vegan biscotti's you have Bake For You.

Vegan Deli Sandwich

Monday, April 17, 2017

Vegan Five One Eats #1

Since I've been posting food on my Instagram account, I thought it would be a great idea to document my search for great Vegan Restaurant establishments. Also, my endless online research was the inspiration behind this series. Whenever I travel, my first task is to look for nearby restaurants with vegan options. Right now, I reside in the Albany area so my objective was already in full swing. Obviously, I will do more than one and it will focus only on establishments. Any other establishments you can think of, please let me know. I will not limit it just to the Albany area. I figured it would be an excellent opportunity to highlight restaurants that do not get enough attention. Thank you for viewing. If you would like to know more about the vegan eatery, the information is posted below.

Vegan Five One Eats #1: Berben & Wolff's, Lark Street

This establishment was on my list for awhile through word of mouth on social media. Since I was going to a hockey game later that day, this would be a perfect opportunity to check this place out.  It finished second place in the Times Union Best Of 2017: Locally Owned Restaurant category. It is very impressive that a Vegan eatery is getting noticed and tastes are slowly begin to change for the better.

Just after 2 PM on Saturday, the establishment is very quiet and not busy at all. The cashier is taking an order over the phone and the bakery case was almost wiped out. I over hear the cashier telling another customer that it was very busy earlier starting at noon. Berben & Wolff's is open 10 AM-8 PM Tuesday through Saturday and 10 AM- 3PM Sunday. They do not offer a breakfast menu but they make up with a very good sandwich selection and good variety of To Go items. Look out for weekly specials on their Facebook page and their Wing Wednesday promotion.

After looking at the menu for a few minutes, I ask the cashier what he recommends since it is my first trip to their establishment. He begins by telling me that they are out of Jackfruit for their BBQ Pulled Jackfruit Sandwich. This does not deter me and he recommends the Wing Burger with Buffalo Sauce. The Wing Burger contains a breaded Seitan patty; shredded carrots; diced celery; and ranch on a sesame seed bun. I knew a sandwich would not be enough so I ordered a couple items from the bakery case: Snicker Doodle cupcake and Chickpea Blondie Brownie. Yes all their ingredients they use are vegan and they have gluten free options available too.

Earlier stated, the bakery case was pretty much empty but it did not deter me from eating elsewhere. I would recommend ordering early so you are guaranteed a better selection. While I was waiting for my sandwich, I ate the Snicker Doodle cupcake which was good, soft, and the frosting was very creamy. I'll have to try their other flavors they have available. After finishing the cupcake, the server brought out my sandwich which I could not wait to take a bite of. The first bite was absolutely delicious and messy. The dressing was running down the side of my hand. The patty was very crispy along with the sauce hits my mouth with a slight kick. The celery and carrots complimented the sandwich perfectly. I got a side of greens with the sandwich, as always. Personally, I avoid the common chips and a pickle option that usually comes included with sandwiches at most establishments. After finishing the sandwich, I decided to order another bakery treat, Chickpea Blondie brownie. I really enjoyed this treat and was absolutely amazed at how chickpeas can be made in desserts. When I use chickpeas, they are for salads and protein-based dishes. Wrapped in plastic, the brownie was still very soft not hard as a rock. After finishing that second treat, I told myself that I need to order that again with my next sandwich.

Clockwise (from top to bottom): The Wing Burger, Chickpea Blondie brownie, and Snicker Doodle cupcake


Despite the limited menu during the time I spent there, I was very pleased with the food altogether and will be making another trip there soon. It is small restaurant with limited seating but I love those type of intimate atmospheres. Next time, I'll make sure to get there a little earlier, especially on a Saturday. One of the line cooks even asked me how my sandwich was as he exited the restaurant. I really appreciate when staff asks customers how their experience was in person, not telling them to fill out a comment card or share on social media. He was very happy to hear that I told him the sandwich was delicious. I can't wait to return to Berben & Wolff's soon. For now, it is on to find the next vegan joint.

Berben & Wolff's Official Website

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-Matt