Tag Archives: Food

Fuel Your Training with Natural Energy Alternative…Or even better, Amrita Bars

While whole foods are a great source of nutrition, but they are not always easy to carry along for a long workout or race. I think a more convenient option is to have a combination of whole foods in an easier to carry package. A great example of this would be Amrita Bars.

Ready_to_ride___fuel__training__ironman__imcda__nourishyourpassion__amritabars_April_18__2015_at_1037AM

Was fully stocked with Amrita bars for my 4.5 hour ride on Satuday.

Amrita Bars are made with non-GMO and mostly organic ingredients that are identifiable with your own eyes. There are no artificial ingredients and they are the perfect balance of nutrients you need to get your through your race.

One option would be to keep some of the whole foods options, like the ones recommended in this article, in your special needs bag as a little something different to fuel you through the second half of the bike or the run.

Anyway here are some ideas for other whole food alternatives…

Source: Fuel Your Training with Natural Energy Alternatives | TrainingPeaks

Race Report: NJ Devilman Half Lite 2015

The last time I raced the New Jersey Devilman Half Lite, it was a cold dreary morning. I vividly remember the “ice cream headache” I had gotten when I plunged my head into the cold, dark water of Cedar Lake. I ended up  with a decent result, but I remember thinking I would not be in any hurry to go back there again.

Well, turn the clocks ahead two years and now with a cold swim in Lake Coeur d’Alene ahead of me, I returned. This time armed with a new neoprene swim cap I was ready to tackle the 60 degree(F) black waters of Cedar Lake. I also figure an increased FTP and a couple Ironmans’ under belt, I could have a potential podium depending on who shows up that day. Hey, I did cut 30 minutes off my 70.3 PR last year.

Looking at last years results for my age group in this race, something under a 3:25 could get me a spot on a box of wood at the end of the day. My previous time was a 3:44 and looking at those times I could possibly shave off about 15-20 minutes altogether if I had a really good day. So I set out to do that.

Travel

I had booked a stay overnight at the Fairfield Inn in Millville, NJ as we did last time. It is a nice hotel and stashed out of the way in what appears to be a shopping mall that never came about. There are usually a lot of people staying there that are doing the race. We were not in a big hurry to get down to Millville this time, since there is not much to see except for strip malls and big box stores. From what I found there aren’t many restaurants with any healthy food either. Everything is chain restaurant junk food.  I think they have every fast food place imaginable. Sorry Quakertown, but I think they have you beat. The best option is probably the Kawa Thai Sushi restaurant.

So, we left later in the day and stopped in Manayunk at the Couch Tomato restaurant on Main St. It was really good. I had a Pistachio Pesto flat bread pizza that had baby arugula and a lemon aioli on it.  It was quite tasty.  Also, Arugula has a ton of Nitric Oxide in it, for a little cardiovascular boost.

We arrived at the hotel around 8pm and checked in. After settling in, I did my last minute race preparations, watched a little TV and then I was quickly off to dream land. I had a great nights sleep too. Last time I did this race I was so wound up I hardly slept at all. I surely do not get as anxious about races like I used to.

I recently read the book “Headspace for the Perfect Race: Create a Winning Athlete Mindset” by Carrie Barrett which had a tip about how to script out your entire pre-race morning plan in order to take some stress off of yourself. So, I created a script detailing everything I had to do, including brushing my teeth and going to the bathroom, and  how long it would take. Despite the constant ridicule of my anality by my wife, this took a huge amount of stress off of my morning. It was great. And my wife later admitted that she found it kind of helpful too since she could plan her morning “duties” without conflicting with me. It seems a bit extreme but I would really recommend it if you stress out on race mornings.

The breakfast at the Fairfield does not open until 6:30am, so if you are going to stick around for that you will be a little late to the race. They do have microwaves and fridges in the rooms which is great. I packed a frozen jar of my usual green smoothie this time and it was the perfect pre-race meal. My morning went smoothly and we were off to the race venue on time and with no stress. It was a gorgeous morning too. There were strutting gobblers(a male Wild Turkey) everywhere we looked on the way to the race.

I did not make the Saturday packet pickup so I had to get my race packet and get all my stickers on first thing. Piranha racing now has race tattoos for body marking so that takes a little more time on the part of the volunteers. Race number tattoos are better when you have mandatory day before packet pickup with more time to put them on.

I headed into transition and setup pretty quickly. Piranha also has marked tranistion spots which is SOOOO Awesome! It just makes things so much more organized and people aren’t cramming you into a little space like usual. Transition closes(7:30am) an hour before my wave start(8:30am), so after I set that up I have a whole hour to relax. I made one last port-a-john run and then I was good to go.

I ran into my Ironman blogger friend Shanna and her friend Amy while trying to locate my wife. I caught up a bit with them and then resumed my search for the wife. Turns out she migrated down to the lake with our friends Kim and Kiersten. Our friend Kim was also doing the race, so I met up with her shot the breeze until race start. Kim is preparing for her first Ironman at Lake Placid this year, so I have been trying to help her through the process. Nothing like the mystery of your first Ironman. Exciting!

We were both testing out our new neoprene race caps….Pretty hot huh?! 🙂

NJ Devilman 2015 Kim Swim Caps

Kim & I looking cool in our new neoprene swim caps. at NJ Devilman Half 2015

Swim

Before I knew it it was 8:30am and my wave was being called to the chilly 60 degree water of Cedar Lake. It wasn’t too bad after the initial rush of water into my wetsuit. My hands and feet could feel the coolness, but it wasn’t too bad. There were a bunch of guys in my wave and it was rather crowded in the small start area. It was only a minute or two before the announcer was yelling “GO!”

The swim start was brutal from the starting line to the first buoy. I mean it was arms, legs and bodies everywhere. I must have had two guys swim over top of me and I think I swam over a couple myself. If an Ironman mass start is worse than that I could not imagine it. About 2/3 of the way to the first buoy I got a mouthful of the scum water and starting choking on it . It was one of those chokes where you keep choking every time you breathe. I started breast-stroking until I could regain my composure again. I was talking myself back to calmness again and I was back on track by the time I reached the first buoy.

I quickly moved to the outside of the swim channel where there was open water after making the first turn. This allowed me to get back on my rhythm again. I then settled into a really nice stroke and just cruised through the swim. I checked my watch once after the first loop and I saw around 11 minutes. That is not too bad considering my choking incident. Now that the field had spread out I could really gain some speed. I really enjoyed the swim here this time. Before I knew it I was done both loops and heading for the aluminum stairway.

I checked my watch exiting the water and it read ~22 mins. So for a 0.8 mile swim that is around 1:36/100y pace which is really good for me. Also, my Garmin said my average stroke rate was around 70 strokes/min which is a little higher than what I have been typically doing in the pool. I have been really focusing this season on increasing my stroke rate to gain some more speed.

Unfortunately, the Devilman folks place the T1 timing mat at the entry into the tranistion area which is about a 1/4 mile away from the swim exit. This annoys me because it does not give an accurate representation of the swim. A quarter mile jog will really through off your swim metrics. I thought about it while jogging over there and hit the lap button on my Garmin halfway to the transition mat just so I could get more accurate swim stats.

NJ Devilman Half 2015 Swim Exit

NJ Devilman Half 2015 Swim Exit

Denise and Kiersten were standing right at the end of the exit plank as I ran by and gave them a thumbs up. I then heard Shanna a little further down the line and did the same. Considering the amount of fans at the race I had a good percentage of fan support! 🙂

Time: 0:24:26

T1

Transition went well. I skipped the socks for the bike and put them next to my run shoes. I purchased some spray on sunscreen this year, so I gave my shoulders and arms and good spray since they typically get baked on these races. I don’t usually wear tank-style shirts so my upper arms arm prime sun meat. The spray worked well.

Time: 0:01:44

Bike

The T1 exit contains the timing mat for the bike start and then there is a tenth of a mile jog with your bike to the mount area. Again, more transition time is added to your bike time. This kind of bugs me, can you tell?

This bike course is flat and fast. There was minimal winds this morning too, except for a very light breeze out of the North. This gave a little tailwind on the way out to the turnaround. Riding out at 20+ MPH you could hardly tell, but coming back was a little more noticeable.

Best Bike Split-NJ Devilman Half 2015

Best Bike Split-NJ Devilman Half 2015

NJ Devilman 2015 Best Bike Split Race Projection Details

I had peformed an race analysis for this event using Best Bike Splits web site. The site recommended that I maintain an average of about 213 watts over the course. I performed this using my last FTP test, which was done late last season. Probably not real accurate for my current level, but I never got around to doing one lately. So I ended up staying a little bit below that in the low 200’s. Regardless I was keeping a good clip and I was feeling really strong most of the way.

There was a lot of drafting going on in this race. There was one guy I was behind for a while that was going at my pace, but I tried to keep him about 4-10 bike lengths ahead of me. One guy came up beside me and told me stay behind him and he stay behind me. “Huh?!” I never had anyone do that before. I ended passing the guy ahead of me after he got too close and we hopscotched each other a few more times for the whole race. Eventually everyone spaced out and on the second loop I was one my own most of the time. I prefer that.

The 10 miles heading back was definitely a little more taxing on the legs. The North breeze was more of a headwind and it picked up as the morning progressed. I finished the first loop in about 43 minutes, which was a little faster than I had planned. I passed Denise and Kiersten at the turnaround and they were not even looking.

I finished a bottle of Skratch Labs hydration and nibbled on my chunks of Amrita bars the entire bike. I was starting to feel a bit full on the 2nd loop, so I cut back on the eating a bit. This isn’t an Ironman smorgasboard!

On the last 10 miles I was starting to question whether I went too hard on the bike. It is such a fast course that it is easy to get carried away. But, my legs were starting to feel a little crampy and taxed. Hmmm?

Training Peaks-Actual Bike Stats

Training Peaks-Actual Bike Stats

I finished the bike in around 1:51 at about 22.2 mph average speed. This was about 13 minutes faster than my previous attempt and over 2 mph faster. The average speed was probably a bit more than that due to the jog to/from transition to the bike mount/dismount area.  If you compare the actual ride stats to the Best Bike Split(BBS) race calculation, you can see that the projected time on BBS was 6 minutes slower and the power was 7-10 watts higher. A little off I’d say.

Would I have been better off at maybe around 1:55-6 and perhaps not feel as crampy in the legs? Most-likely.

Time: 1:51:26

T2

My second transition was pretty much business as usual. I took another spray of sunscreen on my shoulders and a shot in my face. I did close my eyes. It ended up burning a little so I had to use my towel to get if off my eyelids. I also had two Fuelbelt bottles, one filled with Skratch Labs hydration and another with some Perpetuem mix. I decided hydration was the more important of the two and I felt I was well fueled with my Amrita Bars, so I took the Skratch Labs hydration with me.

Time: 0:02:09

Run

I made my way across some ball fields and a driveway comprised of very loose sand onto the run course. My legs, particularly my quads, were feeling a little crampy from the start. It was like an octopus had its tentacles wrapped around my legs and it was squeezing. A sure sign I had pushed a little too hard on the bike. I stopped for a second while heading through the school parking lot to do a quick quad stretch, but when I did that I could also feel my hamstrings cramp up. So I pushed on. I have had this feeling before in the beginning of the run and I knew if I just pressed on, it would eventually go away.

I started out running about a 8:20/mi pace except for the 1st mile where I stopped to stretch. My plan was to run sub-8, so I was figuring the crampiness would wear off and I could pick it up a bit.

The majority of the out-and-back course runs across roads through very wide open farm fields except for the first mile that turns through some homes. The sun was starting to cook and there is no shade for relief. Fortunately, on the way out there was a slight headwind that helped to limit the heat. I dumped a cup of water over my head at each water stop to cool me down a bit.

I had my run shoes loosely tied in transition in order allow me to slip in them quickly. I knew I had to tighten them eventually, but I was putting it off as much as possible.  At around mile 3-4, my laces decided for me that I finally had to tie them and came loose.

Now that my laces were snug I could really kick it in now right. My legs were just not there yet. I had a few people pass me, but fortunately they were all younger age groups. I hadn’t seen many in my age group all day. Only 1 or maybe two on the bike too. EIther I was really doing well, or I was way behind.

I finally reached the turnaround point at 4.4 miles. Now there was a tailwind and it was really feeling hot. I saw a K-17 team Jersey coming towards which turned out to be Ashley Stumpp who is from my area and also did Ironman Lake Placid last year. I gave her a shout of encouragement and may have startled her a bit. She looked to be “in the zone!”

My run pace continued to decline during the second half. My crampy legs were still there, but were tolerable. The reprecussions of the heat and going a little too fast on the bike were taking their toll now. My pace slowed into the high 8’s now. I felt I was still keep a steady pace, but my watch indicated otherwise. Not my plan.

I passed a younger guy in the last mile, who asked if I knew Todd Hydock. He said “He wears that stuff too.” Presumably referring to my Amrita tri jersey.  I said I didn’t and he commented “that is probably why you are so fast!” I laughed and said “I am surely not fast!” Then after I was about 10 feet past him he picked up speed, past me and then slowed down in front of me. WTF?!

I then passed him again on the turn to the main road before turning into the school. I picked up my pace a bit so I would not have to deal with him again. I made the turn into the school, rounded the school and headed down the loose sand driveway to the ball fields to the finish line. My wife Denise and our friend Kiersten were there cheering as I past them. The younger guy I had previously passed twice, decided to make a last blast to the finish. Denise and Kiersten yelled to catch him and I just made a wave him by gesture. He wasn’t in my age group so I didn’t really care at that point.

NJ Devilman Half 2015 Run Finish

NJ Devilman Half 2015 Run Finish

A couple observations on the run…

As you can see from the run stats below, my heart rate continued to steadily increase over the run and was maxed out on the 2nd half. My HR was highest when my pace was actually slowing down. Surely a sign that the heat was effecting me. I haven’t really had to deal with much heat this season so far.

NJ Devilman 2015 Run Pace vs HR

NJ Devilman 2015 Run Pace vs HR

I always thought that the new Garmin Run Stats that come with their new HR monitor were a bit of a novelty. I happened to glance at these from my race and noticed a few things. My run cadence started dropping in the 2nd half of the run. My vertical oscillation, vertical movement while running, was higher on the 2nd half  and my ground contact time decreased. So I was apparently spending more time in the air than on the ground. That is most-likely not a good thing since my pace slowed and my HR was increasing. Perhaps something I should keep in mind when my run starts to faulter a bit.

NJ Devilman 2015 Run Stats

NJ Devilman 2015 Run Stats

Run Time: 1:16:46

Finish Time: 3:36:32

Post-Race

I crossed the finish line and headed right towards the race tent to get some shade. I was totally wiped out. I started feeling like I was on the verge of puking. Not sure if that was from just racing hard or something leftover from last weeks stomach bug, or maybe both. Denise and Kiersten came over and we started chatting a bit. Things starting to spin as I was talking to them. I decided I better sit down for a bit and eventually everything calmed down. I did end up getting a chill and some major goosebumps. Definitely some affects from the heat.

I think I left everything I had on the race course. Now I was wondering where I might have placed. I ventured over to the timing table to see. I finished 44th overall which was easy to figure out. Age group results were a little more difficult to figure out since the screen kept scrolling. I finally figured out that I was 5th in my age group. Technically, I was 6th, but the one guy in my AG was in the top 3 overall.

While I didn’t get a podium spot, I am still pretty happy about my result. Overall I gained 8-9 minutes over my previous attempt which is a decent improvement for a shorter race like this. Placement-wise I moved up 21 places in the overall standings from 65th in 2013 and 5 places in my age group(11th in 2013). I really did pushed my limits and now have a very good understanding of where those limits are right now.

That’s my only race before my “A” race at Ironman Coeur d’Alene, so it is back to hard training again. The biggest takeaway from this race is that I really need to concentrate on a mellow bike leg at IMCDA. I am talking 0.70-0.75 level intensity. I want to have a really good marathon leg and trying to push the bike under 6 hours would not be wise. I need to shoot for a 6:00-6:15 bike leg in order to have a great run.

I now definitely have a different perspective on the NJ Devilman race as what I had previously. I would defintitely consider doing it again. I learned a few things and feel like it was a good pre-cursor for IMCDA.

Thanks for reading!

 

 

 

Joining the 2015 Amrita Ambassador Team

AmritaSquareRGB

Just a quick post here about my recent joining up with the folks over at Amrita Health Foods to their athlete “Ambassador” team. You can check out my athlete profile here.

Use coupon code “britri15” to 15% off nutrition products over at Amrita Health Foods.

If you are a follower of this blog, you probably already know that Amrita Bars have been the foundation of my nutrition for the last couple years. I use them before, during and after races, as well as anytime I need some healthy, real food nutrition. They taste amazing and are extremely healthy. They are plant-based, nut-free, dairy-free, non-GMO and soy-free. They are also a great snack for kids, especially with nut or dairy allergies.

When I first started competing in longer course triathlons, I started getting a very nauseous feeling in my stomach at the end of races due to all the sugary, highly processed gels and gu’s that most people seem to eat. I knew their had to be a better way and started researching things a bit. I read Allen Lim’s book “Feed Zone Portables” and learned about how the cyclists on “The Tour” were having great success with “real” food nutrtion. But, the pro cycling teams had their own chef preparing these for them. With all my training and working would I have time to cook and prep all my training and race nutrition too?

Then one day in February of 2013, I was strolling through the Endurance Sport Expo near Valley Forge, PA and came upon a very sparsely decorated booth. In the booth stood a lone fellow with a brightly colored “Amrita” banner and a bunch of Ziploc bags full of some nutrition bars. His name was Arshad and he was the owner of the company. I tried a couple samples and was immediately impressed. Since going to a plant-based diet 9 months prior, I knew finding any healthy plant-based nutriton was not easy, so I was extremely stoked to find something like this that tasted so good. These bars were so real you could even identify the ingredients of these bars by sight which is not common these days.

2014-12-28-16.28.58-1.jpgArshad graciously sold me a bag full of all his different flavored bars for only the $10 I had in my pocket(I think they were normally $12-15). I immediately knew this was the magic bullet to my nutrition problem. It was convenient, healthy, real food that I could easily take along in a race or training.

 

The real test was whether it would work in a race. I tested them in a couple local olympic and half-Ironmans and it worked perfectly. Going into my first Ironman in Lake Placid 2013 I had full confidence that they would work perfectly for me. And they did! I saw many other athletes suffering from GI issues during the later stages of that race from all the artificial and sugary race nutrition that seems to dominate races. I have still not had any issues after finishing two of Ironmans using this product.

So, when Arshad contacted me about joining his Amrita Ambassador team there wasn’t much hesitation in my response. I have always been outspoken about this product and I will continue to do so and spread the word. I am pretty honored too to be listed among some amazing athletes as well. I am defintely not the fastest or most-gifted athlete, but I work hard to try to perform as best as I can and continue to improve. Amrita Bars are key to my progress.

If you are interested in trying these bars or if you already have and want some more, use coupon code “britri15” to 15% off nutrition products over at Amrita Health Foods.

Thanks for reading!

 

Tuscany, Italy 2014

I have been slacking on blogging lately and this post is long overdue. If you read my previous post about the start of our Tuscan holiday you know it did not get off to a good start. While it was not one of my favorite trips, looking at the pictures now I can hardly complain. It just wasn’t quite the active trip that I enjoy.

Culture, Europe, Florence, Italy, Travel, Tuscany

Our flight arrival in Copenhagen, Denmark

We eventually made our way to Bologna, Italy after a couple short layovers in Oslo and Copenhagen, although it was a day later than planned. We were originally supposed to stay in Bologna the first night, so it wasn’t a huge loss skipping that one evening. Instead we just headed to the place we would have stayed the second night in Florence. It turned out that one day in Florence was enough anyway.

Florence

Culture, Europe, Florence, Italy, Travel, Tuscany

Our Italian Wheels-The Fiat 500

While planning this trip we had read horror stories about how crazy the drivers were on the highway was from Bologna to Florence. They apparently have never driven with my wife. Denise drove to Florence from the airport and she fit right in there. Actually, it was fine and we had no problems until we got to Florence that evening. Florence is pretty confusing to drive in with the crazy streets, circles and traffic. Fortunately Google Maps app on my iPhone was AWESOME! I don’t know what we would have done without it.
We arrived at the Il Palagetto Guest House a bit late the first evening, but they waited up for us and were very accommodating. They even made us reservations at one of their favorite restaurants, Trattoria da Sergio, while we unpacked. We then walked a few blocks through the large gates of the old city of Florence and enjoyed a fabulous dinner. Now we were feeling like we were on vacation!

Culture, Europe, Florence, Italy, Travel, Tuscany

Denise enjoying some wine at Trattoria da Sergio-Florence, Italy

After a good nights sleep and some breakfast, we headed into Florence for the day. As we got into the main part of the city it became very crowded! Loads of tour groups with their little flags and earbuds filled the streets. I was not diggin’ it. The area around the Ponte Vecchio and the Duomo were the worst. We had hoped to go in the Duomo, but the line was around the block. Instead we opted for our first(of many!) gelatto tasting. Yum!

We had 2pm reservations for the Accademia to see Michelangelo’s David statue, which everyone says you have to see. We headed over that way to find where it was and to pick up our tickets. People were lined up the street to get in there. Seemed kind of strange when all they had to to was purchase tickets on the other side of the street or online beforehand. Then they can walk right in the door at their reserved time. I don’t know why people would not do that? Whatever. We walked down the street and found Ristorante Accademia. We enjoyed a nice lunch while we waited for our entry time.  The food was delicious, our waiter was really nice and spoke good English too.

We headed back to the Accadmia with full bellies and entered pretty quickly. We started looking at some of the works around the entrance and then quickly skipped right to the main hall where the David statue was. We are not really “art” people so this was a stretch for us. I was not blown away by the David statue at first as some had said it would do. Perhaps the masses of tourists distracted me. It wasn’t until I got up close that I was really amazed. The size and articulate detail of this statue was amazing. Carving veins and bodily details out of solid marble like that just blew me away. Definitely worth seeing. We spent a bit of time looking at David and then sauntered through the other statues, but the other stuff was snoozeville compared to David.

Culture, Europe, Florence, Italy, Travel, Tuscany

David by Michelangelo-Accademia, Florence, Italy

The rest of the afternoon was spent “lolligagging” around the city. My wife enjoys this, but it just bores me to death. It is like mall-shopping for me. We got a good lay of the city and ended up at Piazzale Michelangelo where there was a gelatto-fest going on. The view of the city from there was amazing too. We decided after this we had enough and made our way back to the Il Palagetto House and started on our way down to Lucca. We would be staying at Il Gallo Guest House just outside of Lucca for the remainder of our trip.

Culture, Europe, Florence, Italy, Travel, Tuscany

Il Gallo Bed & Breakfast

Culture, Europe, Italy, Lucca, Travel, Tuscany

Our place at Il Gallo B&B-Bozzano, Tuscany, Italy

The drive to Il Gallo went suprisingly fast. Google Maps directed us precisely up the winding little road up the mountain and into the driveway. We were immediately greeted by our friendly hosts, Robert & Katinka. They showed us lovely accomodations and invited us down for some local wine and snacks after we unpacked and settled in. We immediately felt at home with Robert & Katinka. It felt more like we were getting together with friends we had not seen for a while than hosts we had never met before. They are actually Dutch, but have lived in Italy for quite some years and new the lay of the land. We had told them of our dietary preferences, me being plant-based and Denise more a hybrid paleo, and they were very accommadating with our breakfasts. They even adjusted the breakfasts throughout the week based on what we did and didn’t eat. The first night Robert drove up the road with us to the little village above. He took us into the local restaurant and translated the menu and ordered for us in Italian before driving back home. The little restaurant in the town of Bozzano was pretty much only locals and was only open a few nights a week, but the food was amazing and so inexpensive. It is one of those places you just don’t find on your own.

Every morning, weather permitting, we make a short walk up into Roberts’ olive grove to our private terrace for breakfast. Robert had already delivered our wonderful breakfast which would be wating for us there. It was just an amazing scene looking out over the mountains that surrounded us. I didn’t want breakfast to end. On days when it was cooler or raining we would eat down by the main house which was very nice too and still provided the spectacular views. My only complaint about the week was that we didn’t spend more time there hanging out a bit, but we had all these cities to visit.

Denise enjoying breakfast on the terrace at Il Gallo, Lucca, Italy

Denise enjoying breakfast on the terrace at Il Gallo, Lucca, Italy

Isola Santa, Barga & Lucca

 

Culture, Europe, Florence, Italy, Travel, Tuscany

Denise walking through Isola Santa, Italy

On our first day we drove north towards Castelnuovo di Garfagnana then west to a little ghost village in the Alpuane Alps called Isola Santa. Isola Santa is tiny town nestled into valley surrounding a beautiful spring lake. The town is so small and hidden we almost past by it. The parking area is basically just a turnout on the road. We walked through the little town and explored some of the hiking trails around the lake. By the time we got back to the tiny village, it was almost lunch time. There was one place with some outdoor tables that looked like they would serve food. No one else was eating yet, but we sat down at a table and a girl came out with silverware and things. Immediately after that several groups of people came in and sat down too. It now looked like this would take much longer to eat than we planned since they were not heavily staffed. We decided to leave and get something at one of the towns down along the Garfagnano valley.

We ended up stopping in the city of Barga for lunch. Barga has a very large Scottish population, which is highlighted by there Sagra di Pesce e Patate(Fish & Chips) festival every year. So we figured it would be easier to order and eat there since they most-likely spoke more English. We ended up eating at L’Osteria located in a small courtyard in town. It was quite good and the waitresses spoke decent English with a slight Scottish accent. We followed up our late lunch with a little gelato at the shop around the corner too.

We walked around Barga a little more after luch and then made our way down to check out Lucca. I think Lucca is one of my favorite towns in Italy. It has all the characteristics of an old medieval city but a little smaller and less touristy than some of the others. It is surrounded on all sides by a wall which you can run and bike around. I did neither of those, but we did walk a little bit around it 🙁 . To get into the city you must go through very narrow tunnels through the wall entrance which has cars on the outside and people on the inside. This leads to a bit of confusion when you get to the inside and everyone collides in the street.

Culture, Europe, Italy, Lucca, Travel, Tuscany

Lucca town center panorama

The labrynth of streets in the city are lined with many shops. There is a central piazza called, Piazza Anfiteatro, which has many shops and restaurants. Our host Katinka works in one of the shops so we decided to stop in and say Hi. While there she gave us some things to see in the city such as the Guigli Tower and also an opera that was going on that night. The tower was pretty cool. It had trees growing on the top and provided a magnificent 360-degree view of the city. The opera, well, was not really our bag. I tried to keep an open mind but neither of us was into it and we left at intermission. 50 Euros down the tube.

Culture, Europe, Florence, Italy, Travel, Tuscany

View of Lucca from the Guinigi Tower

We then went in search of somewhere to eat dinner. We ended up walking back-and-forth across town because Denise could not make up her mind where she wanted to eat. We ended up eating at Gigi Trattoria, which Katinka and Robert had recommended. It was a good meal, but we were a bit grumpy for the undecisive walking about we had done. We naturally followed up dinner with some more gelato sampling in town.

Fuori dal Centro Gelateria, Lucca, Italy

Fuori dal Centro Gelateria, Lucca, Italy

One stop was at a place on the main piazza which was ok. The better one was a place on the street outside of the main city, named Fuori dal Centro, which was right where we had parked. Denise had spotted some locals in there, so we figured it must be good. And it was!

 

Monte Forato Hike

We enjoyed anothe great breakfast before heading north again to the town of Fornovolasco to do the Monte Forato Hike. The Fiat 500 was getting bit low on fuel so we needed to stop and refuel. There is a gas station down the bottom of the hill from Il Gallo, but Denise said she had seen numerous other stations along the road we had taken the day before. As we drove on we didn’t see any and we were quickly approaching our turn to head up into the Alps. I finally spotted one on the other side of the road and made a turn in. I filled up the tank with around 50 Euros of petrol and then gave the attendant my Mastercard. Rejected!! I then gave him my Debit card VISA…Rejected! WTF!! I asked him to try my credit card again…still nothing. I didn’t know how much cash I had and started digging into my pockets. I managed to piece together the 50 Euros using every little piece of coinage in my pocket. Whew! Apparently gas stations in Italy use some special card for their gas purchases that is different from a regular credit card. I would highly suggest looking into this beforehand or just carry cash.

We eventually drove through the small town of Gallicano which had a ATM and a grocery store. We were also out of water, so we needed to stock up. I ended up purchasing a 6-pack of large bottles, but I unfortunately didn’t notice the word “sparkling” on the side. We noticed this later after we getting ready to start our hike in Fornovolasco. Not a good start to the day.

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Fornovolasco, Tuscany, Italy

We headed across the little bridge and up through the town. I somehow lost track of Denise while I was taking pictures, but eventually found her down at the lower end of the street. She was all mad about it, which I didn’t get since I thought I had seen her go up the way I had gone. I like to take my time hiking and take pictures and she is all focused on hiking, so she just takes off without me. We followed the stream uphill and eventually got off onto some trail going past some small gardens. There were some nice waterfalls along the way, but heaven forbid I stop and take pictures, so I just kept hiking. We eventually straightened things out at the next trail junction.

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Rainbow on Monte Forat Hike-Apuane Alps, Italy

The trail is mostly uphill for the first half before topping out on some rocky peaks. There are some great views of the valley and the coast on the opposite side. The trail had also gotten a little tricky to follow at the top as well. We ran into another couple on the climb up, who we chatted with a bit on the top. They John & Sarah from Massachusetts. We told them we were from Allentown, PA and John said he had done a Tough Mudder at Bear Creek Ski Area which is just up the road from us. They were a really nice couple and we had much in common with them. We hiked together for a little bit and then went our separate ways but kep running into each other again. We ended up hanging out with them at the bar back at the trailhead afterwards. We never got their contact information though, which I have regret.

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The great stone arch of Monte Forato-Apuane Alps, Italy

The climax of the hike is the rock archway with a view of the valley in the middle. It was really clouded in when we first got there, but eventuallly cleared up to give us a view. We also got a nice little rainbow on the other side too. The hike down was not as much fun. It has briefly rained and made for an extremely slippery descent. Denise and I both fell several times. One of my falls was pretty intense too and my wrists were hurting. It was a pretty nice hike and we could have lengthened it a bit more if we had more time.

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Fornovolasco, Tuscany, Italy

On our way up to Fornovolasco, we noticed a small church nestled in the cliff side of the windy road up the mountain. We decided to take a ride up the small driveway to check it out. The Santuario Mariano Eremo di Calomini was lit up really cool as it turned dark out. Unfortunately, they had it gated off so you could not get up close to it. We also noticed a very narrow driveway that skirted the cliffside and a sign indicating a agriturismo and restaurant. We decided to check it out. Threre was a sheer dropoff on the right side of narrow driveway. We eventually came upon the Agriturismo Antica Trattoria dell’Eremita. It appeared to be open so we went in and had some dinner. It was pretty basic, but good. The best part was that they had some local spelt beer which I had yet to try. Definitely a good add for my Untappd profile.

Montepulciano & Siena

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Toscana View from Montepulciano, Italy

Wednesday morning we got up a little earlier, had breakfast and were on the Autostrada heading to Montepulciano. Montepulciano is one of our favorite types of wines, so we were looking forward that. It was about a 3 hour drive down there via east to Florence and then due south. The scenery was nice, for being on a highway, but the landscape was a bit browner than I would have expected. Perhaps it was that time of year. We got into Montepulciano around lunch time, found a parking spot in one of the parking garages on the Southeast side of town and headed into the city center to get some lunch. Denise had picked out La Pentolaccia as a good place to eat in the Rick Steves Italy book and it ended up being right in front of us when we walked into town. Perfect!

La Pentolaccia translates to “The Stinkpot” in English, but there was nothing stinky about it. We grabbed the last table outside which we shared with anothe couple from Arizona. They were really nice and we ended up chatting away with them. The lone waittress there was really sweet, but she was so busy you could tell she was really struggling to keep her composure. The food took a little long, but it was so worth it. I had some bean soup and gnocchi for my main course. We also had a small bottle of wine to wash it down with. Rick Steves did not steer us wrong there.

We spent the rest of the afternoon wandering around the town, which my wife likes to do. I tend to get a bit antsy when there is no particular destination in mind. We stopped at the de Ricci wine cellar which was really cool I got some pretty cool long exposure shots in there. The best part was at the end when you pass through the sliding glass doors into the tasting room. People in front of us were paying for wine tastings which were served at the counter. When we flashed our Rick Steves book at the wine stewards, we were immediately whisked over to a nice table and chairs complete with snacks and a full flight of tastings. Wow…Thanks Rick!

We then wandered around some more and then to the main Piazza Grande, which is the main square in town. I ventured into the Duomo and took some photos in there. It was fairly dark, so I had to do some longer exposures on the tripod. Next, was a short walk down the street to the left to Cantine Contucci to see the ever popular Adamo (Pallecchi) and taste some of the legendary Vin Noble. Adamo is known to be a bit of a character and he surely did not let us down. When Denise asked him if she could get her picture taken with him, he immediately starting fondling her and went in for the kiss. On the lips no less. Everyone was cracking up, including Denise and I. I didn’t manage to get the kiss shot because I was laughing so hard. It was so funny. Oh yeah the wine was pretty good too!

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Adamo putting the moves on Denise

We left Montepulciano in the late afternoon and decided to drive the more “scenic route” back to Lucca. We wanted to see more of the countryside and also avoid rush hour traffic on the autostrada. The countryside was beautiful, but much more brown and dry than you typically see. Most of the fields were plowed and the soil has very ash gray color to it. Nonetheless, it was still beautiful country. We decided to stop in Siena for dinner and check out the town.

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Montepulciano, Italy

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Duomo of Siena, Italy

Siena was really cool. Very old and has many tiers to the streets. The most impressive part was walking out into the Piazza del Campo, which is a large, amphitheater-like courtyard which is surrounded by the large Tower of Mangia on the lower end and numerous restaurants on the upper side. We headed past the Tower to dine outdoors at Antica Trattoria Papei, another Rick Steves recommendation.  Rick did not let us down this time either. The food was really amazing and they allow you to order a bottle of wine and only charge you for the amount you drink which I had never seen before.

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Panorama of Il Campo-Siena, Italy

As if Piazza del Campo was not amazing before, it was even better after dark. The tower was all light up and there were tons of people just hanging out in the piazza. We got some gelato’s and sat down for a while and took in the view. There was something really cool about that place, but I just could not put my finger on it. We then made our way back to Lucca and Il Gallo. But the excitement didn’t quite end there. I noticed that the gas gauge was going down pretty quickly on the way home. It was around midnight at this point and there were no open gas stations. I was sweating it out towards the end. The warning light came on and we still had a 12 miles or so to go. As I was winding up the steep and narrow road to our place, the warning light began flashing and some italian words came up on the dash. I pulled into the driveway on fumes around 1am! Whew..made it!!

The Cinque Terre

The next morning I literally coasted down the little road to the gas station at the bottom of the hill to fill up. Now that we had relieved ourselves of that stress, we jumped back on the autostrada and headed west to the city of La Spezia. La Spezia is the main trainstation for getting up to the towns that comprise the Cinque Terre along the coast. You can drive up there but it is not recommended since there is not many places to park in the tiny cliffside coast towns. We parked in a underground parking garage below the train station. The was a big sign on the door saying to take your parking ticket with you, which I would not normally do. But I suppose there was a reason for this. After taking some time to figure out where to get our train tickets we eventually got on the train and headed up to the town of Monterrosa, which is the most northern of the popular towns. It is also the most touristy and less quaint, but we were just there to get some lunch and then hike the trail down the coast to Vernazza.

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We had lunch at Cantina di Miky, which was right on the beach. To my surprise they had a full menu of Italian microbrewed beers! My Untappd profile got a few nice additions of some international brews and badges. They food was also good. Denise had some anchovies that were nothing like the ones we typically see in the States. These actually looked like fish and they didn’t even taste fishy. There was a group of four next to us who just arrived from St. Louis who gave them a try too. After several IPA’s, one a double, I was ready for some hiking! But, we couldn’t do that until we had some gelato first.

We made our down the crowded promenade towards the end of the beach to pickup the trailhead. Throngs of tour groups crowded our the walkway making it difficult to move at times. We eventually reached the narrow trail and began our making our way up. Two German women in full packs and hiking gear played hopscotch with us until reached the ticket booth of the trail to pay our trail fee. The trail was pretty narrow and with amount of people on it it made it very annoying. You would get behind people in high heels or flip flops who should have stayed on the promenade and then you would need to wait for a time when someone was not coming the other way to pass them. I was getting irritated with it quickly. This is not my idea of hiking.

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Monterrosa, Cinque Terre

Despite the traffic, the views along the coast were beautiful. This made all the more difficult since it was really hard to take it in. The highlight was when we rounded the final bend to get our first views of the town of Vernazza. It is so picturesque with the brightly colored buildings which bend out on a penisula into to the sea. The beauty becomes afterthought though when you enter the town into the masses of people bustling about. We wandered around the town a bit and stopped into the closes gelateria to refuel a bit. I don’t think we missed having a gelato in any town in Italy yet.

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Locks on the Cinque Terre trail.

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Vernazza, Cinque Terre, Italy

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Vernazza, Cinque Terre, Italy

We decided to skip the hiking since it was not what we were hoping for there. So next we headed up to the train station after checking out the town a bit more. They never checked our train tickets on the ride in, so we decided to try and ride for free this time. We skipped the next town of Corniglia and headed to Manarola.  It was a pretty quick ride, but it seemed longer since I was stressing about not buying a ticket. I don’t think it was worth the stress to save a couple dollars. Karma will come to play later in the day for doing this.

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Manarola, Cinque Terre, Italy

We spent some time walking around Manarola looking for prospective restaurants for dinner. We walked out the walkway to the North where the classic picture of the town is taken. It was early yet, so we walked to the little outdoor restaurant just above it to have a cocktail and take in the beauty of the town. By the time we were done, crowds of people had accumulated on the walkway to get their evening photos. Most were just smartphone or handheld shooters, but there was one or two other guys with tripods to get a real shot. The lighting was not spectactular, but it was still beautiful regardless. I took a bunch of shots including one of Denise and I in front of the town. Then we were off to find some dinner. We settled on Trattoria la Scogliera at the lower end of town. It was busy, but they had room for us. Food was very good too.

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Happy Travelers at Manarola, Cinque Terre, Italy

 

After dinner we hopped on the train again, this time with tickets, and headed to the next town of Riomaggiore. After a long walk through a tunnel, we popped out right in the middle of town. Riomaggiore is a very narrow town that is nestled between the mountain that surround it. It is very difficult to get a good shot of the town without going out on a very craggy seawall. The waves were pretty large crashing into it so I decided against that. We walked up the street into the town and found what else but a gelateria. Why not have a gelato! After finishing up our gelatos we made our way back down towards the train station. It was around 9:30pm now and the last train was at 10 or so. As we walked I started digging around my pockets for our parking garage ticket. Hmmm…nothing? We stopped and I went through everything to no avail. Ugh…Karma had struck. To make matters worse, the train we were waiting for was delayed so we stood there just anticipated the adventure that awaited us. Would we be stuck in the garage all night? Could we even get in to our car? I could see Denise was stressing much more than I was. With the train being even later was making our exit of the parking garage even less likely.

The train eventually came about an hour later and we were on our way back to La Spezia. We departed the train and made our way down the steps into the parking garage. We walked over to the ticket machine and tried to figure out what to do. There was nothing on the machine to indicate some option for help. Meanwhile, Denise ran up to the upper level and was trying to talk to a taxi driver who didn’t speak English. He didn’t know what to do. I had pressed a button which had an icon that resembled an RSS feed icon on it and a voice spoke in Italian on the speaker. I said “I lost my biglietto!” which is ticket in Italian. He said something I didn’t understand and then “drive to the gate”. There is a metal curtain gate at the exit to the garage. Right after he said that, I saw “€25.00” pop up on the little screen. I slid in my credit card and out popped a ticket! My stomach immediately eased. I ran up the steps to the upper deck and Denise was actually walking past the top of the steps. I said “Come on, I got it!”. We fired up the Fiat and headed out the gate.

So, we would have had to pay €17.00 to park had we not lost our ticket. So it cost us €7 more because I lost the ticket. That is about the same amount it would have cost us for the train ticket from Vernazza to Manarola. Karma?

We made the hour or so drive back to Lucca without too much issue. It was so nice to crawl into that bed though, since I had started wonder if we were ever going to that night. Friday was going to be a chill day at Il Gallo since it was supposed to rain and we had no real plans. I was looking forward to it.

 Chill Day in Lucca

I slept in a bit on Friday morning. There was a light rain which made it easy to roll over for some more z’s. Not that I have a problem with that. We had breakfast down on the veranda at Katinka and Robert’s home which offered just as nice a view as our terrace, but shielded us from the rain. It eventually started thunder & lightning and Katinka invited us in her home to hang out for the morning reading or catching up downloading photos. I was able to help them with some computer problems as well, which was cool. We invited them out for lunch and they took us to one of their favorite places in Lucca, Locanda Buatino. It was a really good meal and very inexpensive. Katinka had an appointment in town that afternoon, so we said we could walk around town some more and then take her back home.

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Our Favorite gelateria in Tuscany, Fuori Dal Centro, Lucca, Italy

We made a B-line for our favorite gelateria in Tuscany, Fuori dal Centro. It worked out great and we stopped at the grocery store and picked up some snacks too.

We lounged around during the afternoon and then had our last nights dinner at the little local restaurant up at the top of the hill. It was another fabulous meal and a great way to finish off the trip. We enjoyed a couple bottles of the local wine and some good dessert and cappucino before sauntered down the hill back to the house.

The next morning we packed up and said our goodbyes to Robert and Katinka. It was a wonderful place to stay and they are magnificent hosts. I would HIGHLY recommend staying here if in the area. We loaded up the Fiat and drove back to Bologna.

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Room at Radisson Blu Stockholm Arlandia Airport

 

The flights home went pretty smooth. We had a long layover in Stockholm, which we had picked because we love staying at the Radisson Blue by the airport. The rooms are awesome and the breakfast buffet is one of the best I have ever seen.

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Part of the breakfast buffet at Radisson Blu Stockholm Arlandia Airport

While this was a very nice trip, it probably wouldn’t be one of my favorites. The main reason for that is that it was it was just too short. I felt like we were just rushing all over the place to see everything. I like to just settle in to an area and really focus on that and do more hiking. I also am not into aimlessly walking around cities, but my wife is so she really like that part. I get kind of bored with it and I don’t like dealing with crowds of people. I also wished I could have had more time to do some cycling. The area we stayed is a mecca for road cycling and their were cyclists everywhere as drove to the next city. But the place we stayed was excellent and the area is beautiful. I would go back in a heartbeat, but I would just do some things differently next time.  Thanks for reading!

 

Winter Cross-Training & Vacation 2014- Stowe, VT

We decided to change things up a bit this Winter. We have been spending our Winter vacations in Lake Placid, NY for the past several years. This year we decided to give Stowe, VT a try mostly because they had much more kilometers of skate skiing trails than what LP has and I was starting to feel like I could ski the Mt. Van Hoevenberg trails with my eyes closed. This is surely not to say that Van Ho is not challenging me anymore…it surely does kick my butt every Winter! I just needed a change of scenery.

The surprising thing is we actually ended up Alpine(downhill) skiing this week much more than we usually do. That basically means more than once or none really. We ended up finding some more reasonably priced mountains to ski. We also got some nice snow midweek, which helped too. We found a nice little apartment for two to rent right in the heart of downtown Stowe. It was the perfect base of operations for the week. I have to say I was a little disappointed with the layout of the town of Stowe. I thought it was going to be much more consolidated so that you could walk everywhere. It was not. There were many places located up Mountain Road which heads north towards the Stowe Resort. We were in the most consolidated part, but we ended up having to drive most of the time to get to restaurants. Regardless, I did grow accustomed to this by end of the week.

Saturday(2/1)

We were packed up and on the road by around 9:30AM. We wanted to hit a place called The Hungry Fish in Troy, New York for some slow-food and also try to beat the snow forecast for NY & Vermont later that afternoon. Denise drove the whole way up, so I had time to play around on my phone surfing the web and stuff. Lunch was pretty good and they had several plant-based options and some locally sourced, grass-fed meats for Denise. We were also entertained by some live guitar entertainment.

We got into Stowe around 5pm or so. It was getting dark and snowing pretty good at that point. We stopped at a little health food store just before Stowe and got some snacks and things. People were real nice and the guy grew up near Collegeville.

One way to kill some time on the long drive up to Stowe…

 

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Stowe apartment pano

We eventually arrived at the little apartment in Stowe and were pretty impressed from the beginning. The place was nicely furnished and very clean. Perfect place for the 2 of us to relax a bit for the week. We then headed out to the Crop Bistro & Brewery for some dinner. The place was pretty nice and fairly busy. They told us we may have to wait a bit, but everything came very quickly. They had a couple vegetarian/vegan dishes on the menu and great homemade microbrews. I was a happy camper. Our waitress, Kathrine, also hooked us up with some good local skiing info. Namely, Burke Mountain, which was $25 lift tickets on Sundays and it was about an hour east of Stowe. We were all over that tomorrow.

Sunday(2/2)

Sunday morning we got up and made some breakfast and were on our way to Burke Mountain near East Burke, VT. We didn’t realize this until later, but this is the same town that is base to the Kingdom Trails mountain biking network that we had looked at going to some years ago. The drive over was long and the roads were still kind of snowy. We got there around lunch time and had lunch in their Tamarack Bar & Grill. We had a nice table overlooking the mountain. Mountain was really nice and we found some pretty decent runs with ample snow on them. It was a pretty good deal!

We made the long drive back to Stowe, showered up and headed over to the Bangkok Bistro Thai restaurant on the hill in Stowe. Food was good and pretty spicy(I did ask for that). It was Super Bowl Sunday, so no one was in the place except for us. Go Seahawks!!

Monday(2/3)

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Trapp Family Lodge

On Monday morning we headed up the road to the Trapp Family Lodge to do a little skate-skiing. Denise wasn’t feeling quite up-to-snuff, so she decided to rent some classic cross-country ski’s for a more relaxed day in the snow. On my first run, I headed out on the Telemark trail which was a little tough for the first run of the day and year for that matter. It went uphill right away around the back of the lodge, but eventually mellowed out a bit. I then headed down to some of the lower Deer Pond Trail section ending with about 6.5 miles for the morning jaunt.

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We then drove down the street to the Deli at Trapp Lodge for some lunch. We quickly realized we could have just skiied there. Lunch was pretty good and the Beer was equally good. I had a pistachio hummus wrap and a mug of Dunkel Lager, which was good fuel for the afternoon ski session. For the afternoon ski, I headed out the Luce Trail and then hooked up with the Haul Road trail which skirted the border of the property. I bumped into Denise out there but then we parted ways at the Oslo trail intersection.

“Cherish the cabin!”

– Mr. Ross(Susans’ father on Seinfeld)

The Oslo trail sucked to say the least. It was steep uphill the whole way and I was dying. It did have nice scenery with the sun going down. I was planning on meeting Denise at the Slayton Pasture Cabin outpost. I eventually got there but Denise was still making her way around the mountain behind the cabin. Stopping at the cabin was a mistake as I got pretty cold as my sweat had chilled. I decided to ski out and meet Denise since the cabin was closing anyway.

For dinner we walked down the street to the The Whip Bar & Grill at the Green Mountain Inn for dinner. Food was very good and they had a nice selection of options. I had the Butternut Squash Ravioli, which was to die for! There bread was also incredible and I ate the whole loaf. What the hey…I burned a ton of calories today!!

Tuesday(2/4)

We enjoyed a nice, relaxing, and lazy morning on Tuesday. I enjoyed an extra cup of coffee while catching up on the latest the Internet had to offer. I eventually got a bit antsy and we headed out for a walk up through town to find the bike trail. It is located behind the Church in town and is well groomed for x-country and skate-skiing. It parallels Mountain Rd. and is far enough away so you feel a little bit out and about.

 

For lunch, we hit the Cafe on Main just down the street for a quick lunch. We enjoyed some soup and sandwiches. Denise dropped her glove over the counter and down into the store front window display. One of the skinny kids working there had to climb in and fish it out for her.

Later, I had Denise drop me off at the Stowe Cross-Country Ski Center which is located just before you reach the Stowe ski resort up Moutain Road. It was a bit more low-key than the Trapp Lodge, but was a little bit more expensive too. I heard it was more popular with the locals. I actually enjoyed the trails here much more than Trapp. They were a little more narrow(which isn’t always great), but they were well-groomed and I had the place all to myself. It was a hard climb all the way out to the farthest outskirts of the area and then fast downhill all the way back. Some school kids had come out later on and came flying by me in the other direction.

We headed up the street to Harrison’s for dinner. It was a little place tucked in the basement of one of the stores in town. We didn’t make reservations and it was busier than we expected, so we ended up eating at the bar. I had the Vegetable Stir-Fry which was REALLY good! Denise enjoyed her meal as well, but I had forgot what she had. Their menu seemed very similar to the Whips’ menu. They may be connected which isn’t that surprising since they are across the street from one another. Worth a trip here, but make a reservation just to be sure.

Wednesday

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We awoke to a fresh coating of Snow on Wednesday and it continued all day. I think we ended up with a foot overall. We decided to head up Mountain Road to the Matterhorn Bar for some lunch. The place was pretty empty and freezing cold, but the food was really good. I had the Pizza which was excellent and Denise had a salad that she also enjoyed. The snow continued to fall as we overlooked the frozen stream behind the restaurant. This is probably a really killer atmosphere in Summer time too.

After lunch we headed over to the Sterling Forest to do some snowshoeing. We found our way via some unplowed roads to the trailhead at the start of the Sterling Upper Gorge trail. The plow actually came threw right behind us. We enjoyed a beautiful hike through the woods while the snow continued to pile up. We passed a few backbountry skiiers coming out as we headed in, but other than that we had the place to ourselves. The following Stowe area map provides a nice overview of the trails in the area.

For dinner we headed to The Bistro at 10 Acres Lodge just outside of town as you head towards the Trapp Family Lodge. It was a nice, cozy little place with good food. I had the Indian Vegetable Curry dish which was killer. The Stowe or Vermont Tourist board was also filming a video while we were there, so we may even make the Fox News on Channel 44 up there. Stay tuned for that. Anyway, this was a really good meal and I highly recommend it. It was also rated as one of the best restaurants in Stowe.

 

Thursday

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We ventured about 45 minutes South on Thursday to do some skiing at Mad River Glen. MRG is a cooperative ski-area so it is owned by the public skiing shareholders. They pride themselves on preserving the traditional ski-area style complete with a single-person chair lift and NO SNOWBOARDERS!! (A beautiful thing!). They also have no snowmaking so they are dependent on the weather and getting good snow. Since we just got blanketed with a fresh foot of the white stuff, we figured this would be a good day to hit it. It did not let us down.

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We found some really nice runs with ample snow for some fine skiing. There were a couple bad ones and some barespots here and there, but nothing bad. The barespots were also grassy and not rocks, so it was not a big deal. It was also a beautiful day too. The lift tickets were only around $47 each if you purchased them online, which we did, so that was a nice little bonus as well. I will let the pictures say the rest…

Denise shreddin’ some turns on our favorite run of the day. It was the worst run to get to though.

 For dinner we headed back to The Crop Bar & Grill again. It was much less crowded this time, but the service was twice as slow. Hmmm. We sat in the bar(the nicer one) area this time. There were a handful of very loud drunkards at the bar when we first got there, but they soon left and things got back to normal decibel levels. For dinner I had asked if they could prepare the Chicken Green Curry dish without the chicken and put some of the veggies from the Winter “Spaghetti” Primavera in the dish instead. The waitress said no problem. While it was a little more tasty than the Winter “Spaghetti” Primavera dish, it didn’t really taste at all like Green Curry. Not sure what it was. I did eat it and didn’t complain since I was pretty hungry. I wasn’t totally impressed with this place this time.

Friday

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Jay Peak-It felt colder than this!

For our last full day in Vermont, we headed north towards the Canadian border to ski at Jay Peak. My wife always has horror stories about when she was young and here with family. It was apparently excruciatingly cold then and she has not forgotten it. Well, Jay Peak did not change too much…It was COLD!! Them temperature was actually much higher than yesterday at Mad River Glen, but the wind was brutal and it it was snowing most of the morning.

We payed for our most expensive lift tickets so far(~$70) and stood in the long, slow line for the tram to the top of the mountain. Fortunately, there was an entertaining gentleman ahead of us to listen to the whole time. We eventually got to the top and it was so brutal! Really high wind, snow and freakin’ cold. I could not even see my way down the trail.  We ventured around the mountain to find some more protected runs and eventually found some on the western side of the mountain.

 

Finally lunchtime arrived and we headed to Alice’s Table restaurant for some lunch. I had a extra beer because I really was in no hurry to get back out again to ski. Denise decided she was done, but I was venturing out for a few more runs. I headed up the eastern side of the mountain. It wasn’t too bad at first but then I came up over a ridge on the chairlift and the wind was brutal again. Ugh! The chair was swinging side-to-side it was blowing so hard. I made two runs that pretty much sucked and then I had enough.

We headed back to The Bistro at 10 Acres again for dinner. It was another good dinner there. Pretty consistent. A bit more crowded this time. We had made reservations on OpenTable which I would recommend, especially on a weekend. OpenTable is great for easily making reservations via the web and we use it a lot, especially when traveling. Also, here is a listing of all the Stowe Restaurants on OpenTable.

Saturday

Saturday morning we packed up and started on the long drive home. We stopped over in Burlington, VT to do some shopping at the Eastern Mountain Sports store which had a huge sale and we had some gift cards to use from Christmas time. Next we stopped for lunch at Magnolia Bistro in downtown Burlington. It is hidden away in a basement of a back alley building, so it is a little hard to find. It was very busy though and the food was delicious. They had all local, organic foods and plenty of veg-options.

One thing with Vermont is that almost every place is local and organic. It seems to be a given there. It is great! Most every place had some veg-only options too. I wish PA would get with the program with that stuff. VT almost felt like Europe in this respect. It was a great week with plenty of Winter activities. I took my running and swimming gear with me, but I never really needed it. There were so many other activities to do to take their place. There will be plenty of time for that stuff during the rest of the season.

The drive home was not too bad. Of course I wasn’t driving either…ha! We stopped in Clinton, NJ for dinner at one of our favorite Thai restaurants, Pru Thai. A good ending to a great week.

Thanks for reading!

 

FDA: Nutrition labels getting a makeover? Why Not Add GMO Too?

It’s funny that Monsanto‘s big argument to NOT label GMO foods was because it would cost too much to change the labels on the so-called “food”. Now the FDA is requiring big changes to the nutrition labesl on food. So, won’t this raise the prices on our food??? If not, why can’t we add a indication whether the food is GMO or not??

The reality of all this is, if we are to truly eat healthy the majority of the food we should be eating don’t come with nutritional labels to  begin with!

via FDA: Nutrition labels getting a makeover – CNN.com.

Wondering why GMO’s are bad? Here are 5 Good Reasons…

This is a great post on Obama’s Betrayal of GMO Labeling…

Ironman Lake Placid 2013 Race Week-Travel Day

Thursday morning the alarm went off around 6am. Actually my Jawbone Up vibrated a little before that to wake me at the optimal wake time giving me adequate time to pry my eyes open for the day. I fired up the Vitamix for my morning smoothie and commenced packing up for the trip. We were hoping to get going by 8am for the 6 hour journey to Lake Placid. As usual though, this wound up being around 9-9:30am. Still not a bad time to avoid the rush hour traffic in the Lehigh Valley area.

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We made a quick stop for some dry ice so that I could keep my frozen fruit cold, and then we were on our way. There was a lot of chit-chat on social media on the way up, which seemed to make the ride go fast. My Mom was also texting me about trying to find a place to stay. My in-laws mentioned that they saw some last minute deals on AdkByOwner.com and I found a couple places in Lake Placid for a fair price. My parents contacted the place and after some back and forth, they ended up taking the place. So now it looks like we have a full crew up for the race. Even my dog, Yuki, will be coming up too!

2013-07-25 12.17.57-2The New Paltz exit on I-87 was here in no time and we got off to hit our favorite little stop, Karma Road. They have lots of good organic and plant-based friendly food that is very delicious. Today we had a Red Lentil vegetable soup that was really awesome to start out with and then Sweet Potato Curry, Red Beets & Carrots, Roasted Cauliflower. I topped that off with a Peanut Butter crunch bar. After all that we were ready to hit the road again.

 

 

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The ride up went pretty smoothly. I thought I would see more bikes on cars than we did. There were a few, but sparse. We stopped in at The Mountaineer in Keene for a little shopping for our upcoming trip to the Alps. Didn’t find anything though. We pulled into the house around 4:30pm.

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2013-07-25 17.09.02We quickly unpacked and donned our running gear for a half hour run down River Road. It was a beautiful day. The clouds had now cleared the sky and it was a total “bluebird” day. It was just so awesome running down looking at the mountains. Temperatures were perfect too. Probably high 60’s or low 70’s. Just perfect. There were a ton of bikers on River Road, but not too many people running. The run had totally erased any ill effects of sitting in the car all day. My legs were feeling REALLY great and I definitely had to hold back from going too fast. It felt like I was running on air.

 

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We showered up after the run and headed over to Liquids and Solids for some dinner. We swung by the place my parents were staying to check it out. Really great location for the race and it was right around the corner from where we were eating. Liquids and Solids was pretty busy for a small place. They have killer beer selection and also had some plant-based friendly options. The meals were a little small on the portion size, but I was fairly full afterwards. What the meals lacked in size, they sure made up for in flavor. I had a Cavetelli pasta with a white bean & summer squash sausage(no meat) which was so tasty. Denise had the Salmon Ceviche with gnocchi which she also enjoyed. Definitely worth heading back there again.

We headed back home after dinner and off to sleep. Plan for Friday is to get a little swim and bike in to loosen things up a bit.